MLB Power Rankings (5/28)

Last week

 

1) Boston Red Sox (36-17) 1

The Red Sox have reclaimed the top spot in the weekly power rankings, using a week that saw them win series with both Tampa Bay and Atlanta to do it. Something to watch in the next few days however is the status of MVP candidate Mookie Betts, who was a late scratch yesterday with tightness in his left side and is officially listed as day to day. Boston’s lead over the Yankees both in the AL East and these power rankings is as narrow as possible, and if Betts is forced to miss any of this week’s games against Toronto and Houston the Bo-Sox could be in trouble.

2) New York Yankees (33-16) 1

The Bombers gimped through a mediocre week based on the outrageous standard they’ve established for themselves early in 2018, but if 3-3 represents a down week I think this team will be just fine. New York started their last seven day stretch by disappointingly dropping two of three to the struggling Rangers, but after taking a day off last Thursday they impressively rebounded to win a home series with the Angels over the weekend. Tomorrow afternoon the Yankees will begin a must-see TV series with Houston, a rematch of last October’s epic ALCS.

3) Houston Astros (34-20) Same

How awesome is the upcoming week going to be? The defending champion Houston Astros picked up right where they left off last fall from day one in 2018, and before we speak again they’ll play seven games with the Yankees and Red Sox, the only two teams in baseball who are legitimately on their level. Their difficult week may have gotten off on the wrong foot before it even began when Houston dropped a 14 game extra inning contest with the Indians yesterday, really beating up a bullpen that had already been heavily used of late. They’ll assuredly need serious length from Justin Verlander this afternoon.

4) Milwaukee Brewers (34-20) Same

The National League’s best team kept rolling this past week, sweeping the Diamondbacks and then taking three of four from the Mets over the weekend. Milwaukee’s offense is absolutely humming right now as they’ve scored 25 runs in their past two games, getting contributions from everybody, particularly Christian Yelich and Jesus Aguilar. The only potential concerning issue with the Brewers right now is the recent performance of closer Corey Knebel, who has just not looked like himself since returning from the disabled list.

5) Atlanta Braves (30-21) Same

The Braves came back to earth a little bit since we last spoke, losing series to both Philadelphia and Boston, but that could potentially be the least of their problems. Rookie phenom Ronald Acuna Jr. landed extremely awkwardly after lunging for first base yesterday, turning his knee the wrong way similarly to what happened to Bryce Harper last summer. The Nationals’ star missed a little over a month with his injury, and Atlanta will hope for much better news when Acuna’s MRI results come back at some point today, as having him miss any significant time would be a huge blow to this team both emotionally and on the field.

6) Chicago Cubs (27-22) Same

The Cubs have finally got it going, and on a team with a plethora of big names, it’s Javier Baez who is largely leading the charge. The slick-fielding infielder reclaimed the National League RBI lead with a huge three-run homer on Sunday Night Baseball last night, providing the key hit in Chicago’s rubber game win over the Giants and giving them some positive momentum heading into this week. Starting tonight the Cubs begin a seven-game road trip with the Pirates and Mets, and with the continued success they should begin to close the gap between them and the Brewers in the NL Central.

7) Seattle Mariners (32-20) 2

The Mariners haven’t missed a beat since losing Robinson Cano to his stunning PED suspension, and right now they may be the best story going in Major League Baseball. Seattle just breezed through another dominant week, going 5-1 against Oakland and Minnesota, surprisingly climbing to only one game back of the Astros in the AL West. The schedule moving forward continues to be kind to the M’s, as their next week of games will feature contests with struggling teams in Texas and Tampa Bay.

8) St. Louis Cardinals (28-22) Same

St. Louis has been coasting along around a .500 pace for a couple of weeks now since losing Yadi Molina to the DL, and while that doesn’t sound overly impressive, lesser teams would crumble without their de facto captain. Tommy Pham continues to pace the Redbirds’ offense, Carlos Martinez has been among the best starters in baseball, and virtually every member of the Cardinals bullpen has been lights out. This club will need all three of those things to continue this week, with a huge series against their NL Central rival Brewers beginning today.

9) Philadelphia Phillies (29-21) 2

Philadelphia continues to be one of the brighter developments in baseball, and they’re showing no sign of slowing down. Last week the Phillies won a huge series with the Braves before dropping a home set with the Blue Jays, but all three of those games were close and their weekend fate could easily have been better. Aaron Nola and Jake Arrieta have been arguably the best 1-2 rotation duo in baseball in 2018, combining to go 10-4 with an ERA of 2.34, and Odubel Herrera seems to have put his propensity for brain farts in the past as he’s enjoying easily his most productive season in the big leagues. We’ll know a little better if Philly is for real in the next few weeks, as beginning today they’ll embark on a 10 game road trip through LA, San Fran, and Chicago.

10) Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (29-24) 3

Mike Trout and company won two of three from the Jays this past week before heading into the Bronx for a heavy-weight fight with the Yankees over the weekend, and while they emerged with only one win in the three games, they certainly showed New York they can compete in the AL. The Angels do have an excellent chance to not only rebound but go on a little bit of a run in the next few weeks, as their next 13 games are against Detroit, Texas, Kansas City, and Minnesota.

11) Colorado Rockies (28-25) 1

The Rockies have recently taken over first place in the struggling NL West, but that doesn’t exactly mean they’re on any type of a roll. Last week Colorado dropped a three-game series with the Dodgers before taking two of three from Cincinnati at home, and they’ll look to win consecutive series when the Giants come to Coors Field tonight.

12) Washington Nationals (29-22) 3

Don’t look now, but the Nationals may finally be poised to take over the NL East. Washington went 5-1 last week, easily breezing through games with the Padres and Marlins, and the schedule  continues to be kind to them with Baltimore up next. That’s not the only good news for the Nats’ though, as both Daniel Murphy and Brian Goodwin are getting set to begin minor league rehab assignments in the next few days as the pair continues to work their way back from injury. Murphy’s return in particular will be invaluable to this offense, especially for Bryce Harper, who is currently hitting just .232 as he’s attempted to carry the team on his back for much of the first two months.

13) Pittsburgh Pirates (28-24) 1

The Pirates roller coaster 2018 season endured a downswing this past week, as the Bucs dropped two of three to both Cincinnati and St. Louis, with yesterday’s rubber game with the Cardinals being particularly frustrating as their bullpen let a potential win get away. One positive development for Pittsburgh has been the performance of top prospect Austin Meadows, whose hit .455 with three home runs in the first nine games of his big league career. The week ahead will be important for this team if they intend to stay in the NL Central race, as playing poorly against the Cubs and Cardinals would seriously set them back in the divisional race.

14) Cleveland Indians (26-25) 1

The Indians went 4-2 this past week, and while that is far from dominant, the manner in which they did it provides optimism for this club that most predicted to be much better than they’ve looked to date. Cleveland just won a pair of games with the Cubs before splitting a difficult four game series with Houston, and with the White Sox up next maybe they can continue to trend upward.

15) Arizona Diamondbacks (26-26) 5

Now that they’ve fallen all the way back to .500 the Diamondbacks have officially thrown away all of their fast start, which is a real shame. This team just isn’t the same without A.J. Pollock, one of the most underrated stars in the game whose spent far too much time on the DL in recent years, something that has seriously held this team back from reaching their full potential. Arizona is in full free-fall, as this past week they were swept by Milwaukee before dropping two of three to Oakland over the weekend, dropping them to just 2-15 in their last 17 contests. If Arizona is ever going to get back on track they have the right team coming to Chase Field, as Cincinnati currently has the National League’s worst overall record.

16) Oakland Athletics (28-25) 1

The A’s have moved through 2018 largely under the radar, outperforming most preseason expectations experts had laid out for them. After a dominant seven day stretch last week, Oakland went 3-3 in the one they just completed, losing a series with the Mariners before rebounding to take one from Arizona. Up next is a four-game series with Tampa Bay, and the A’s will hope to continue to quietly play solid all along baseball without attracting too much attention.

17) Tampa Bay Rays (25-26) 5

Tampa Bay’s “opener” strategy is currently the talk of baseball, but it shouldn’t be ignored that this team has actually been winning of late. After losing the first two games of their midweek series with Boston the Rays went on to win three of their next four games, aided by a weekend series with Baltimore. Tampa has a very difficult road trip in front of them, with stops in Oakland, Seattle, and Washington, and while they’re not a serious contender in the American League this team has proven they can be competitive, and I expect them to continue to do so moving forward.

18) Los Angeles Dodgers (24-28) 1

For all of the Dodgers problems in the season’s first two months, they’ll enter play tonight only 3.5 games back in the NL West, which is bad news for the rest of their division. Los Angeles has had issues with injuries, under-performance, and even effort, but they’ve been much better lately and maybe they’re finally turning things around. Last week the Dodgers won series with both the Rockies and Padres, highlighted by yet another dominant start from Walker Buehler. Up next is four games with upstart Philadelphia, but LA is tentatively planning to activate Clayton Kershaw from the DL for Thursday’s start which should provide a lift to the entire team.

19) New York Mets (25-24) 3

Similarly to Arizona, the Mets have essentially given back all of their fast start to 2018, and things just are not going well for this team right now. Since we last spoke the Amazins’ inexcusably lost two of three to the lowly Marlins, punctuated by a devastating blown save by Jeurys Familia that wasted another brilliant Jacob deGrom start in the rubber game. New York then moved on to Milwaukee where they dropped three of four to the red hot Brewers in a series that could have easily gone the other way with even remotely competent bullpen performance. Things don’t get any easier for the Mets moving forward as they play eight games with the Braves and Cubs in the next seven days.

20) Toronto Blue Jays (25-28) 2

Toronto has proven they are not legitimate threats in the American League, and they didn’t change anyone’s mind over the past seven days. The Blue Jays went 3-3 in six games with the Angels and Phillies, with the most positive development being a strong start from J.A. Happ in Philadelphia against the team that drafted him all the way back in 2004. A trip to Fenway Park for a date with the Red Sox is up next on the Blue Jays’ road trip, and it’s hard to imagine that visit going very well for them.

21) San Francisco Giants (25-28) 1

They Giants had consistently played around .500 baseball for almost two months, but they began to dip below that level of play in the past seven days. San Francisco lost four of their five games since we last spoke, and while the schedule was admittedly difficult with games against the Astros and Cubs, if this team wanted to be taken seriously they needed a better showing against the league’s better teams.

22) Minnesota Twins (21-27) 1

The Twins made the playoffs a year ago which makes their struggles in 2018 one of the most baffling developments in 2018. Basically every member of Minnesota’s offense not named Eddie Rosario has failed to live up to expectations, which is one of the primary reasons this team has lost their past four games, including a weekend sweep at the hands of Seattle. The Indians are still leaving the door open in the AL Central but it is becoming more obvious by the day that the Twins just aren’t good enough to take advantage.

23) Detroit Tigers (23-29) Same

Detroit is clearly in the bottom 3rd of the league, and like Minnesota they are just not proving themselves to be a viable threat to Cleveland in their division. Last week the Tigers actually did play okay, but the schedule was not exactly all that difficult. Detroit went 3-3 in six games with the Twins and White Sox, but the week ahead should prove to be quite a bit harder. Before we speak again the Tigers will play seven games against the Angels and Blue Jays and let’s see how they fare.

24) San Diego Padres (22-32) Same

It was another mediocre week for the club in the southernmost city in California, as the Padres dropped series to both the Dodgers and Nationals. Carlos Villanueva’s dominant rookie season continues to be one of the best stories in baseball, but sadly aside from that San Diego just doesn’t have much else going for them. Maybe their recent trade for Phil Hughes can change that? Probably not.

25) Texas Rangers (22-33) Same

The Rangers continue to struggle through 2018, but perhaps the most distressing part of the situation is the downright awful performance of supposed ace starting pitcher Cole Hamels. Hamels got hammered again yesterday in Texas’ loss to the Royals, and they’ll undoubtedly need that to change if they intend to use him as a trade chip in July.

26) Miami Marlins (19-33) 1

The Marlins continue to be scrappier than most expected they would be, and for that they deserve a little bit of credit. This past week they used an impressive rally in the rubber game with the Mets to steal a series in Queens, and while they followed that by getting swept by the Nationals, a 2-4 week is still better than some had this time pegged for.

27) Kansas City Royals (18-35) 2

Kansas City rose a few spots this week after impressively going into their Missouri rivals in St. Louis’ building and winning a road series against a good team. The Royals followed that up by splitting a four game set with Texas, and while this week was honestly not so bad for the ’15 World Champs, this club remains one of the most obvious sellers in baseball.

28) Cincinnati Reds (19-35) 2

Similarly to the Royals, Cincinnati is a bad team that actually played competitively in the 7 day span they just completed, going 3-3 against the Pirates and Rockies, two clubs that are clearly better than them. Up next for the Reds is a date with the free-falling Diamondbacks so it wouldn’t be shocking to see them win a few more times before we speak again.

29) Baltimore Orioles (17-36) 1

The Manny Machado trade winds have to be becoming at least a little bit of a distraction for this club, but that is far from the reason they’ve struggled so mightily in 2018. The Orioles just aren’t very good and Machado remains the only reason fans have to visit Camden Yards these days. For now.

30) Chicago White Sox (16-34) Same

Baseball’s worst team remains the White Sox, who just have very little to feel positive about right now. Chicago did come through with a marginally strong showing for themselves this past week, going 3-4 against Baltimore and Detroit, but those are two of the worst teams in the league. Failing to come out of that week with a winning record is how you become last in power rankings for the 3rd consecutive week.

MLB Power Rankings (5/21)

Check out last week’s Power Rankings

1) New York Yankees (30-13) Same

The Yankees hardly played this past week as the deluge of rain that plagued the Northeast for days completely washed away their series with the Nationals. Over the weekend they did take two of three from the woeful Royals in Kansas City, and most notable in that series was the strong start Sonny Gray turned in yesterday as he had really been struggling. Overall New York has now taken eight consecutive series after a so-so beginning to 2018, and despite Boston being right on their heels, the Bombers remain the clear cut number one this week.

2) Boston Red Sox (32-15) Same

Boston is currently just percentage points behind the Yankees for the best record in baseball, and likewise they remain a virtual second number one team on this list. The ‘Sox recently completed week got off to a bumpy start when they dropped consecutive home games to Oakland, but they rallied to take four of their next five to further entrench themselves as one of the top teams in the league. Up next for Mookie Betts and company is a date with division rival Tampa Bay before returning home to face the red hot Atlanta Braves next weekend.

3) Houston Astros (30-18) Same

Any MLB insider would assuredly tell you that the top three teams in baseball right now are the Yankees, Red Sox and Astros, and the only thing left to determine would be how you’d rank those three. I’m sticking with the same order as last week, keeping the defending champions at number three, but the gap between these three clubs and 4-30 is significant. Last week Houston took series from both the Angels and Indians, two clubs many insiders predicted would join the aforementioned Astros, Yankees, and Red Sox in the postseason in October. The thing that makes the Astros so tough is they never really seem to have an off night, and play well even in their losses. This team’s last three defeats have all been by a skinny run, and they haven’t been beat by more than two in almost three weeks.

4) Milwaukee Brewers (28-19) 1

The Brew Crew have quietly been the most consistent team in the National League this year, and they’ve been creeping up this list for weeks. This past week they just continued to do what they’ve been doing, taking two of three from both Arizona and Minnesota on the road, wrapping up a highly successful 7-3 road trip that began in Colorado. And how about Jesus Aguilar? Playing regularly with Ryan Braun and Eric Thames both on the DL, the big man launched four long balls in Minneapolis, and he may be becoming the biggest power threat you’ve never heard of in the National League. Starting tonight Milwaukee will play ten straight games at home at Miller Park, squaring off with the Diamondbacks, Mets, and Cardinals, all contenders in the NL. Let’s see where they are by the end of the month.

5) Atlanta Braves (28-17) 4

The Braves can no longer be ignored or discredited. The team that will begin play tonight with the best record in the National League resides in Atlanta, something nobody would have predicted two months ago but that is the reality of the situation. Things are going so well for the Braves they are coming out on top in games they have no business winning, like yesterday when they rallied for six runs in the 9th inning to stun the Marlins with a 10-9 walk-off win. The next two weeks will be telling for this club as they will play all three of their serious competitors in the NL East (Phillies, Mets, Nationals), as well as the Red Sox. If Atlanta can get through that stretch without missing a beat and maintaining the best record in the league you might be looking at your early favorite in the National League.

6) Chicago Cubs (25-19) 1

The Cubs have been hanging in the middle of the pack in the NL Central all year long, but you just get the feeling this team is on the verge of catching fire. Last week they dropped two of three to the surging Braves before heading down to Cincinnati and snatching three of four from their division rival Reds. Chicago has two well deserved off days this week as their bullpen could use a break after playing a double header over the weekend, but when they are on the field they’ll host both the Indians and Giants at Wrigley.

7) Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (26-21) 3

The bookends of the Angels’ week were good, as they defeated Houston last Monday and beat Tampa Bay yesterday. Sticking with the analogy, the rest of the book was terrible however, as the Halos dropped all five of the contests in between. This team has been up and down several times already in 2018 though, and I am confident they’ll get back on track in fast order. After taking tonight off Los Angeles of Anaheim will resume play north of the border in Toronto tomorrow.

8) St. Louis Cardinals (25-19) Same

The Cardinals continue to just be in survival mode playing without their field general and emotional leader, Yadier Molina. Last week they split two games in Minnesota before splitting a four game set with the Phillies back home at Busch Stadium, using a brilliant start from rookie Jack Flaherty yesterday to assure themselves of a 3-3 record since we last spoke. St. Louis currently sits just 1.5 games behind the Brewers in the NL Central, but with Milwaukee and the Cubs both threatening to go on a run, this team will have to prove they can string wins together rather than just get by without Molina.

9) Seattle Mariners (27-19) 1

Off the field the Mariners are currently engulfed with drama and controversy due to the recent PED suspension of injured superstar Robinson Cano, but on the field this team has surprisingly been able to avoid the noise and continue playing rock solid baseball. In the recently completed week the M’s won a make-up game with the Twins, split two contests with Texas, and then won three of four from the Tigers over the long weekend. Yesterday was especially notable as Seattle’s offense looked lost all day before a two run 9th inning homer by Mitch Haniger brought them back from the dead in a game they eventually won in extra innings. At the moment the Mariners have actually overtaken the Angels in the AL West, and let’s see how well they can maintain this level of play going forward.

10) Arizona Diamondbacks (25-21) 4

How is this team still in first place? Following an absolutely dominant beginning to 2018 the Diamondbacks are in a free-fall. They’ve dropped 10 of their last 11 games, and their weekend sweep at the hands of the Mets was particularly disappointing as they were in all three contests. A.J. Pollock is currently on the disabled list, Paul Goldschmidt looks like some sort of an impostor, and while Jake Lamb was just activated from the DL, he looks extremely rusty, and may have actually been rushed back to help a struggling offense. Long story short this team has serious issues, and if they can’t rectify them immediately they’ll likely be further down this list next week.

11) Philadelphia Phillies (26-18) 1

Odubel Herrera’s incredible 45 game on-base streak finally reached its conclusion yesterday, but that did little to slow down the Phightin Phils’ positive momentum. Philadelphia won a game in Baltimore while having another rained out this week, before heading to St. Louis where they split a tough four game series on the road. The Phillies biggest series of 2018 to date will begin tonight against Atlanta, whom they currently trail by just 1.5 games in the NL East.

12) Colorado Rockies (25-22) 3

The Rockies have not been lighting the world on fire, but thanks to the recent struggles of Arizona they find themselves just a half game back in the NL West. Last week they split two with the Padres and four with the Giants to go 3-3 since we last spoke, and up next is a suddenly hot Dodgers team on the road.

13) Cleveland Indians (22-23) 2

The story with the Indians is just getting redundant at this point. We’ve been saying for almost two months that this team should be better than they’ve played so far, but what if they aren’t? Cleveland just completed another disappointing week, going 2-4 to drop them under .500 for the year. Bad teams in Minnesota and Detroit are right on their heels, and it’s becoming clear the AL Central is the weakest division in baseball.

14) Pittsburgh Pirates (26-20) 2

Pittsburgh continues to play scrappier than expected, currently sitting just 1.5 games back in the NL Central. Last week they swept away the White Sox but frustratingly lost all three over the weekend to the lowly Padres. After taking tonight off the Bucs will get set to visit Cincinnati, a team they simply have to take advantage of if they want to be taken seriously.

15) Washington Nationals (24-21) 1

The Nationals have been hard to figure out. This is a team similar to the Indians, they should be dominant, but injuries and inconsistency have held them back. After a resounding four game sweep in Arizona, Washington wasn’t able to complete a game for five days thanks to bad weather and an odd scheduling quirk that left them with off days on Monday and Thursday. When they finally resumed playing baseball on Saturday, the layoff showed, as they dropped both games of a double header to the Dodgers and then lost again on Sunday, falling back to 4th place in their division. They do have a clear path to a rebound though, as their next nine contests come with the Padres, Marlins, and Orioles.

16) New York Mets (23-19) 1

The Mets had been unable to really string solid play together for over a month, but that finally began to change in the last few days. New York just took four of five at home this week, doing it the way they’re designed to win, dominant starting pitching from Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard, lights out relief pitching, and offensively using the home run ball to score quickly. It was no doubt encouraging to see, and the Amazins’ will hope to continue their hot streak this week when the Marlins come to Queens.

17) Oakland Athletics (25-22) 3

Oakland is becoming a potential surprise competitor in the American League. Since we last spoke this team took a series from the Red Sox at Fenway before heading north and just bludgeoning the Blue Jays for four consecutive days. The Athletics are getting tremendous starting pitching from Sean Manaea and Daniel Mengden, offensive contributions from all over the line-up, and they’re currently just 2.5 games out of a potential playoff spot.

18) Toronto Blue Jays (22-25) 5

The Jays had hung around the outside of the AL East race for a while, but those days are firmly a thing of the past. After splitting two games in New York with the Mets, Toronto allowed Oakland to storm Canada and beat them in four straight contests, and it may soon benefit this club to begin planning to sell in July.

19) Los Angeles Dodgers (20-26) 2

Here come the Dodgers? Well, maybe. LA just impressively swept three games from the Nationals but prior to that they inexcusably dropped a series to the Marlins in Miami. As has been the case with this club in 2018 though, all news can’t be good, as starter Rich Hill joined fellow southpaw Clayton Kershaw on the disabled list yesterday and is expected to miss about a month. The difference Justin Turner makes with this team is evident though, as since the veteran third baseman returned in Miami, he’s hit .333 in six games and made this line-up much more formidable.

20) San Francisco Giants (24-24) 1

San Francisco has chugged along around .500 essentially all year, and it’s looking like that is going to be about the ceiling for this team in 2018. This past week the Giants went 4-3 in home games with Cincinnati and Colorado, but the road ahead will be much more difficult. Tomorrow San Francisco embarks on a eight game road trip where they’ll play the Astros, Cubs, and the Rockies again, this time at Coors Field. They’re likely to be well under .500 when that stretch is completed.

21) Minnesota Twins (19-23) 3

I tried to give the Twins the benefit of the doubt last week when they finally showed some signs of life, but since we last spoke they’ve done nothing but revert back to their losing ways. Minnesota went just 2-4 this week, but the narrative for them remains the same seemingly every week. The Indians are struggling so mightily to run away with the AL Central, and if the Twins can ever put together a run they’ll likely take over the division lead.

22) Tampa Bay Rays (22-23) 1

They continue to try to reinvent the wheel in Tampa Bay, and the rest of the baseball world is not quite sure what to make of it. Reliever Sergio Romo STARTED back to back games over the weekend as manager Kevin Cash implemented a bizarre match-up strategy, but it worked as they took three of four from the previously red hot Angels. Up next is Boston which won’t be easy, but regardless of how they play in that series the Rays are becoming one of the more interesting stories in 2018.

23) Detroit Tigers (20-26) 1

The Tigers finally got bumped out of spot number 22, but they didn’t drop too far. This team is not good by any stretch of the imagination, but similarly to the Twins, they are very much in a divisional race because of the struggles of the Indians. Beginning play tonight Detroit is only 2.5 games back in the AL Central, and with games with the Twins and White Sox up next, maybe they can make a little bit of a push.

24) San Diego Padres (20-28) 1

The Friars had been sinking into the abyss for weeks before suddenly waking up over the weekend. San Diego shockingly took three of four from Pittsburgh, making them winners of four of their last five overall. Their next six games come with the Nationals and Dodgers, team struggling squads that were predicted to be NL powerhouses in March, and it’s really difficult to generate any type of preview of those series.

25) Texas Rangers (18-30) 1

The Rangers and Padres seemingly duke it out down here in the power rankings every week, and this time Texas came out on the short end of the stick. The Rangers just dropped three of four to the pathetic White Sox over the weekend, and it’s becoming more and more obvious by the day that they’re likely headed for a tear down in a couple months.

26) Cincinnati Reds (16-32) 1

The Reds have rallied to play a lot better over the last few weeks, and while it’s hard to tell when looking at their 16-32 record, it was a lot uglier a few weeks ago. Cincinnati is getting strong seasons from Joey Votto and Scooter Gennett offensively and both Amir Garrett and Jared Hughes are pitching well out of the bullpen, setting this team up to have some marketable pieces in July.

27) Miami Marlins (17-29) 2

Say what you want about the Marlins and what their new ownership group did over the winter, but the guys on the field are playing hard and making this team much more competitive then most thought they would be. J.T. Realmuto, Justin Bour, Miguel Rojas, and Starlin Castro are all performing well offensively, and it would seem Derek Jeter and company should be able to flip all of them for more young talent at the deadline.

28) Baltimore Orioles (14-32) Same

Manny Machado continues to be the only reason to pay attention to this team, as the early favorite for AL MVP is currently hitting .343 with 14 homers and an MLB high 42 RBI’s. The only question surrounding both Machado and Baltimore is how long he will be playing home games at Camden Yards, as the O’s simply have to move the free-agent to be at peak value.

29) Kansas City Royals (14-32) 3

Kansas City has struggled for the majority of 2018 but this past week was particularly ugly. The Royals got swept by the Rays before dropping two of three to the Yankees over the weekend, and they’ll need a strong road trip to avoid falling into the last spot on this list next week.

30) Chicago White Sox (13-30) Same

Chicago occupies the cellar of the power rankings for the second consecutive week, but they actually did show a little bit of a pulse since we last spoke. The White Sox took three of four from the Rangers over the weekend, headlined by a dominant start from young Reynaldo Lopez yesterday, an encouraging sign for this year and beyond.

 

 

 

 

 

 

MLB Power Rankings (5/14)

Last week

A new number one and a sliding NL powerhouse highlight the latest edition of Baseline Times MLB Power Rankings.

1) New York Yankees (28-12) 1

For the first time all year the Red Sox are not in the top spot on here, and to make matters worse for Boston, it’s their arch rivals in the Bronx that have dethroned them. The Yankees have simply been unbelievable for the better part of a month now, and their mid week series win over the Red Sox secured them of this ranking. New York already has four players with double digit home run totals, and they’ve just been bludgeoning the opposition to death almost daily. They’ll take tonight off before embarking on an eight game road trip beginning in Washington tomorrow.

2) Boston Red Sox (28-12) 1

The Bo-Sox are no longer number one, but number two almost sounds too harsh. Realistically them and the Yankees are almost a 1 and 1A situation at present. And the fact that they are 3-3 head to head so far only adds more intrigue to what should be an incredible race all year long. Honestly it wouldn’t be surprising to see them back on top of New York next week, as they have a tremendous opportunity to string some wins together in the days ahead. Their next 10 games are against Oakland, Baltimore, and Tampa Bay.

3) Houston Astros (26-16) 1

As was easily predicted, the Astros down week two weeks ago, did not carry over into this past one. Houston five of six games from the A’s and Rangers, priming them for a huge showdown with the Angels beginning tonight.

4) Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (24-16) 1

The Angels have a realistic chance to overtake Houston for first place in the AL West. All they’ll have to do is beat the champs head to head this week in a series Houston will throw Lance McCullers, Gerrit Cole, and Justin Verlander at them. It’s an important three game stretch for this team, as for seven weeks they’ve been proving they can hang with the Astros, but if they want to show their biggest rivals they’re a legitimate threat to win this division, it will have to be done head to head.

5) Milwaukee Brewers (24-17)  3

The Brewers are establishing themselves as a force to be reckoned with in the National League, as both Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain have been everything the club could have hoped they’d be when they acquired the pair in the off-season. We should soon have a better handle on where Milwaukee stacks up in the NL heirarchy as six of their next nine games are with Arizona.

6) Arizona Diamondbacks (24-16) 3

The D’backs weren’t going to win every series all year, but still, their sudden downturn this past weekend was stunning. Arizona dropped all four games to the suddenly surging Nationals, and the task in front of them  is proving the series was nothing more than a fluke as they move ahead.

7) Chicago Cubs (21-16) 2

Chicago has been better of late, but they certainly haven’t taken off yet. Playing two bad teams (Miami and the White Sox) this past week got them pointed in the right direction as they won five of those six games, but the road ahead isn’t necessarily easy. The Cubs depth, particularly in the bullpen, will be tested in the upcoming week, as they play eight games in three cities in seven days.

8) St. Louis Cardinals (22-16) 2

The Cardinals first week with Yadier Molina in the disabled list did not go all that well. St. Louis dropped four of six games to the Twins and Padres, and to make matters worse, Adam Wainwright’s long awaited return from the DL could not have gone much worse. The veteran righty lasted only 2 1/3 innings and walked six yesterday, before coming out of the game after potentially reaggravating his elbow injury. St. Louis is already talking about him missing his next start, and this situation certainly bears watching moving forward.

9) Atlanta Braves (24-15) 2

The team with the best record in the National League is the 5th NL team to be ranked on this list, and that should tell you just how well the Braves are flying under the radar right now. Atlanta is getting terrific starting pitching, and their young offensive core is simply mashing the baseball. The Braves’ next four games are with the Cubs, and if they continue to play well in those contests it will be hard for them to remain the best kept secret in baseball.

10) Seattle Mariners (22-17) 2

Everything had been going so smooth for Seattle of late that Mariners’ fans would tell you something was inevitably bound to go wrong. Those fears were realized yesterday, when star second baseman Robinson Cano was hit by a pitch and broke a bone in his hand, an injury that will likely require surgery and send him to the shelf for several months. Losing Cano certainly changes the attitude around this team, who surprisingly currently sit only 2.5 games back of the Astros in the AL West.

11) Cleveland Indians (20-19) 1

The rhetoric around the Indians is getting redundant, but it really is becoming concerning how they can’t seem to pull away in the woeful American League Central. Cleveland continues to just chug along on a win one, lose one pace, and it is only a matter of time before another divisional team should be able to take advantage.

12) Philadelphia Phillies (23-16) 3

Philadelphia has outperformed expectations all year, doing it in large part with breakout seasons from Odubel Herrera and Aaron Nola, but everything with the Phillies is not rosy. Their 23-16 record is impressive, but it’s concerning that closer Hector Neris has now blown two straight dominant starts from Jake Arrieta, and for a team that will need every win they can get to realistically sneak into the playoffs, those games could come back to bite them.

13) Toronto Blue Jays (21-20) 6

The Blue Jays are still this high out of respect for what they had done to this point, but this was not a good week for baseball’s lone Canadian team. Toronto lost series home series to both the Mariners and Red Sox, and after taking today off they’ll have to aim to get back on track in New York against the Mets.

14) Washington Nationals (24-18) 3

What the Nationals just accomplished out in Arizona this past weekend sent shots around the baseball world that they are back. In four games against the team that previously had the best record in the NL, Washington won all four while limiting the Diamondbacks to only seven runs total. The Nats have a funky week ahead as they are off both Monday and Thursday, bracketing a two game set with the game’s hottest team; the Yankees.

15) Colorado Rockies (22-19) 2

The Rockies went just 2-4 this past week, but the best news for them came away from their own team, as thanks to the Diamondbacks getting beat up by the Nationals, Colorado is now only 2.5 games out in the NL West. With divisional road games coming up with San Diego and San Francisco the Rockies will look to get themselves back on a winning trajectory, while also attempting to gain further ground on first place Arizona.

16) Pittsburgh Pirates (23-17) 3

The Pirates have struggled to get a ton of love so far in 2018, but the way they’ve so drastically outperformed expectations is starting to get my attention. This past week they took four of five games from the White Sox and Giants, and with more games with the White Sox ahead, followed by four games with San Diego and three with Cincinnati, we may be looking at this team differently by the end of the month.

17) New York Mets (19-18) 3

The Mets went 17-9 in the season’s first month but have gone just 2-9 in May, a trend you’d like to hope will correct itself eventually. New York just inexcusably lost two of three to the dreadful Reds before splitting a rain abbreviated two game series with Philadelphia, and they’ll try to get things pointed in the right direction when they send Noah Syndergaard to the mound against the team that drafted him, Toronto, Tuesday night.

18) Minnesota Twins (17-19) 3

The Twins were a playoff team a year ago that got off to a horrific start, but they have finally begun to show signs of life. This past week they won two straight in a short series with the Cardinals before splitting a four game set with the Angels, and continued strong play moving forward should make them a threat to the Indians in the AL Central, as they currently trail Cleveland by only 1.5 games.

19) San Francisco Giants (20-21) 3

For a second there the Giants were trying to convince us they could potentially be a contender, but that was likely short lived. San Francisco’s trip to the east coast was a disaster, as they lost all four in Philadelphia before dropping two of three in Pittsburgh, and they’ll have to hope for better days ahead on their seven game home stand that begins today.

20) Oakland Athletics (19-21) 2

The A’s didn’t play all that well last week, but you can hardly blame them for that. Oakland’s schedule was brutal as they lost five of six to the Astros and Yankees, a week that just accentuated they are not good enough to play with the big boys in the American League.

21) Los Angeles Dodgers (16-24) 1

There isn’t much left to say about the Dodgers that hasn’t been said already in 2018. This team is without question the biggest disappointment in the game this year, and while they have too much talent to be written off completely, it was tempting to do just that after watching them unbelievably be swept in four games by Cincinnati.

22) Detroit Tigers (17-22) Same

Number 22 is without question the Tigers spot, they own this place in the power rankings. And that’s not really a good thing. Detroit has been steadily okay but not good, pretty much exactly how they were viewed in March. This week they get the Indians at home three times, and if they can somehow sweep them maybe they can become a factor in an underwhelming AL Central. Maybe.

23) Tampa Bay Rays (16-22) Same

Tampa Bay got off to a terrible start, played better for a few weeks, but they are currently heading on a downward trajectory again. In the recently completed week they lost twice to Atlanta and dropped three of four to the Orioles, who embarrassed the Rays 17-1 yesterday.

24) Texas Rangers (16-26) 1

The Rangers went 3-3 this past week but that was a marked improvement for a team that currently has a .381 winning percentage. Things may get a little better for them in the days ahead though, as they recently activated second baseman Rougned Odor from the disabled list.

25) San Diego Padres (16-26) 1

San Diego actually played pretty well this week, dropping a series to the Nationals before bouncing back to split a four game weekend set with St. Louis. They are not good by any means, but they’ve at least been reasonably competitive, and they’ll become more interesting later in the year when their off the charts farm system starts bubbling prospects to San Diego.

26) Kansas City Royals (13-27) Same

Kansas City’s starting pitching has been getting hammered all year, something that has been arguably the biggest factor in them losing more than twice the amount of games they’ve won. This past week they gave up at least five runs in every game they played, and 11 runs twice. Yikes.

27) Cincinnati Reds( 14-27) 3

How about the red hot Cincinnati Reds! Unbelievably Cincinnati has won their last six games, evicting them from the power rankings basement, and making their record not look quite as embarrassing as it was.

28) Baltimore Orioles (13-28) 1

Without Manny Machado the Orioles would be borderline unwatchable, but they did go an impressive 5-2 against the Royals and Rays this past week. The Phillies and Boston are up next, though, so don’t expect the wins to continue.

29) Miami Marlins (14-26) 2

The Marlins try hard, but they are just not very good. Last week they were simply over-matched by both the Cubs and the Braves, and they’ll try to bounce back by contributing to the Dodgers misery beginning tomorrow. A silver lining for Miami this year has been the dominance of a couple of their relief pitchers, most notably Kyle Barraclough, who should be a very marketable asset in July.

30) Chicago White Sox (10-27)  2

The White Sox are the new cellar dwellers, as they really don’t have much of anything going for them right now.

 

 

 

 

MLB Power Rankings 5/7

Previous Editions:  1    2     3

 

This was a strange strange week in Major League Baseball. Bryce Harper is now a lead-off hitter, perennial all-stars like Clayton Kershaw and Yadier Molina are on the disabled list, no team in the AL Central has a winning record, and the two New York clubs are headed in opposite directions. Let’s get started with this week’s power rankings.

 

1) Boston Red Sox (25-9)  Same

The Red Sox have held the top spot on this list all season, but that may soon change with the way their arch rivals from the Bronx are now ripping their way through the American League. This past week Boston continued to win series, taking 2/3 from Kansas City and 3/4 from Texas, but their biggest challenge to date lies ahead. After taking today off the Red Sox will travel down to New York for their second encounter with the Bombers, who like I alluded to a second ago, are playing much better than they were the first time these two got together.

2) New York Yankees (24-10) 3

The New York Yankees are on absolute fire, there’s really no other way to explain it. This team has gone on a 16-2 run since their off-day on April 18th and they are getting contributions from everywhere on the roster. Yesterday young righty Domingo German held the Indians hitless through six innings in a game the Yanks’ ultimately won on a walk-off three run blast from heralded prospect Gleyber Torres. New York is currently on a six game winning streak, with all six coming against the Astros and Indians, two AL powerhouses. They’ll look to slay a third American League giant, the Red Sox, this coming week, and if they do they’ll likely take over the top spot.

3) Arizona Diamondbacks (23-11) Same

The NL best Diamondbacks have just continued to play well day after day, and they show no signs of letting up. Arizona has incredibly not dropped a single series all year, and after splitting four contests with the Dodgers early this past week, they impressively beat up on Houston all weekend to take 2/3 from the defending champions. A.J. Pollock and Patrick Corbin are both early favorites for MVP and Cy Young respectively, and honestly there isn’t much that hasn’t gone right for this team so far. Two with the Dodgers and four with the Nationals make up the week ahead.

4) Houston Astros (21-15) 2

These past seven days made up a rare down week for the defending World Series winners. The Astros just limped to a 2-5 record against the surging Yankees and the dominant It’Diamondbacks, but don’t expect the downswing to continue. Houston will share the diamond with Oakland and Texas in the coming days, two divisional foes with a combined record of 31-39. This team will be the favorites in the American League until the day someone eliminates them from contention, and I expect them to play more like themselves moving forward.

5) Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (21-13) 6

It’s truly been an up and down first six weeks to 2018 for the Angels. After a tremendous beginning to the season, they struggled for a few weeks, until they went out and took 5/6 from the Orioles and Mariners, actually reclaiming first place in the AL West from Houston in the process. And we haven’t even talked about Albert Pujols becoming the 32nd player in the history of the sport to record 3,000 hits. Pretty wild when you think about it that the future first ballad Hall of Famer is now easily behind Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani on his own team’s star pecking order. Life comes at you fast.

6) St. Louis Cardinals (20-12) 2

To say St. Louis has recovered from a very pedestrian first few weeks or so is an understatement. This past week they dominated their way through the Windy City, winning five straight from the White Sox and Cubs, capped by a dramatic walk-off homer last night from Dexter Fowler, stunning his former teammates with the Cubs. The schedule is kind moving forward as well, with their next eight contests coming against the Twins and Padres. Not everything is rosy, however, as losing Yadi Molina for the long-term is a tough blow, and let’s see how they’re able to handle playing without their leader.

7) Toronto Blue Jays (19-16) 2

The ‘Jays have played better than expected for the majority of the season, but they’re suffering from playing in the same division as Boston and the Yankees. This past week Toronto took a series from Minnesota, split a double header with the Indians, before frustratingly dropping two of three to Tampa Bay over the weekend. Toronto will welcome a well deserved day off tonight, before hitting a point of the schedule where they may be able to go on a run. Beginning Tuesday, 13 of the Blue Jays next 15 contests will be played at home at Rogers Centre.

8) Milwaukee Brewers (20-15) 2

Milwaukee has been consistently solid without going on a real run thus far, but they’ve still positioned themselves firmly in the thick of things in the National League Central. After sweeping the Majors worst team, Cincinnati, the Brewers lost two of three to Pittsburgh over the weekend, but the road ahead isn’t kind. After two home games with Cleveland, the Beermakers will embark on a nine game road-trip through Colorado, Arizona, and Minnesota.

9) Chicago Cubs (16-15) 3

What is going on in the Windy City? After finally appearing back on track the Cubs have now lost five consecutive games (albeit against good teams in the Rockies and Cardinals), but this is a team that was expected to be one of the absolute dominant squads in the game. Let’s hope a homestand with Miami and the White Sox is enough to get them going, because if it doesn’t, they’ll assuredly be dropping out of the top 10 on this list.

10) Cleveland Indians (17-17) 3

Is it too early to get concerned about the Tribe? On paper there simply should not be any competition for them in the AL Central, but they’ve allowed Minnesota and Detroit to both hang within 2.5 games of them by failing to distinguish themselves over six long weeks. Edwin Encarnacion is hitting .198, free-agent addition Yonder Alonso is hitting .210, and while the starting rotation has been strong, five Cleveland relievers own ERA’s higher than 5.06. The hot Milwaukee Brewers are next up on the Cleveland schedule, and if they aren’t careful they could soon dip under the .500 mark.

11) Atlanta Braves (19-14) 3

How about the first place Atlanta Braves? Following a strong showing in Philadelphia the Braves rolled into Queens last Tuesday and easily swept aside the former NL East leading Mets, shutting them out in the final two contests. Ronald Acuna Jr. has lived up to the hype, Freddie Freeman has been Freddie Freeman, and in a contract year Nick Markakis currently leads the league with a .344 batting average. Atlanta’s momentum came crashing down to earth when they dropped three straight to the Giants over the weekend, but a Florida road-trip to play the Rays and Marlins could be just what the doctor ordered to get them back on track.

12) Seattle Mariners (19-14) 1

Seattle split six games with the A’s and Angels last week, but the bigger story around this team centered around Ichiro Suzuki retiring to join the front office. The veteran should go down as the best pure hitter in team history, which is an incredible compliment when you think of all the offensive players who have called Washington state home. The M’s will take today off before opening a seven game road-trip north of the border in Toronto tomorrow.

13) Colorado Rockies (20-15) 2

The Rockies enjoyed a strong past seven days, a span that has seen them reestablish themselves as legitimate contenders in the National League. After dropping the series opener with the Cubs, Colorado won the final two games with Chicago before sweeping the Mets in New York, and climbing into an NL wild card position. Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon have paced the offense, while Adam Ottavino has been probably the best relief pitcher in the National League. The Angels and Brewers are up next for the Rox.

14) New York Mets (17-15) 10

The New York Mets just had themselves a week. Jacob deGrom and Yoenis Cespedes both left games with (supposedly) minor injuries, the Matt Harvey saga finally ended with him being DFA’d, New York was shut out three times, and lost all six games of a homestand for the first time since 2012. Things literally cannot go anywhere but up in the week ahead, and the Amazins’ are actually headed to a good place to get right, Cincinnati, where they’ll play the Major League worst Reds beginning tonight.

15) Philadelphia Phillies (18-15) 3

Philly has continued to outperform preseason expectations, but when you are playing over your head like that and lose a game like they did yesterday, it really stings. The Phils wasted a tremendous outing from ace Jake Arrieta where he actually out-dueled defending Cy Young winner Max Scherzer, allowing Washington to come back from a 4-1 deficit in the 8th. Philadelphia returns home to take on the red hot Giants and division rival Mets this week.

16) San Francisco Giants (19-15) 4

After finally reaching the .500 mark last Sunday, the Giants continued their surge with another strong week. After taking a series from their division rivals in San Diego, Buster Posey and company headed cross country where they made a statement, sweeping Atlanta over the weekend. They’ll continue their long east coast swing in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh these next seven days.

17) Washington Nationals (18-17) 2

Are the Nats finally getting right? Behind more solid play from the entire roster they just ripped through a 6-1 week against the two Pennsylvania teams, the Pirates and Phillies, while also getting Anthony Rendon back from the DL. The good news doesn’t stop there as all-star second baseman Daniel Murphy and outfielder Adam Eaton both may be headed towards a return later this month, to aid Bryce Harper who has been a one man show for much of the first six weeks. Starting tonight Washington will embark on a seven game west coast swing through San Diego and Arizona and we should have a better handle on them when they return.

18) Oakland Athletics (18-16) Same

The A’s have found a way to hang around so far, but we’ll know almost for certain what their capability is in 2018 within the next two weeks. Oakland’s next 13 games are against Houston, New York (AL), Boston, and Toronto, four clubs all in the upper echelon in the American League. If they are able to survive that stretch we may have to begin looking at them more seriously, but it is far more likely they will soon be plummeting down this list.

19) Pittsburgh Pirates (19-16) 2

The Pirates continue to remind me of that current Morgan Wallen song, Up Down. They’ve been all or nothing so far, very high highs, and very low lows. This week represented a low as they were swept away during a four game series in Washington. They did recover a little by taking a weekend series from the Brewers, but this team has been an enigma all year. Let’s see what the week ahead holds.

20) Los Angeles Dodgers (15-19) 4

The stunningly still slumping defending NL Champs actually played reasonably okay this past week, going 3-4 in seven games with Arizona and San Diego, but what happened off the field was nothing short of devastating. Star shortstop Corey Seager is done for the year with Tommy John Surgery, and the best starting pitcher on the planet, Clayton Kershaw, is now on the DL with biceps tendinitis. To say LA has problems doesn’t begin to do the situation justice.

21) Minnesota Twins (13-17) Same

The Twins went 4-3 last week and that actually represented a pretty large improvement from where they’ve been. Taking 3/4 from the White Sox over the weekend probably represented the high point of Minnesota’s play so far in 2018, and they’ll need to continue playing good baseball if they intend to survive the week ahead, with the Cardinals and Angels on the docket.

22) Detroit Tigers (14-19) Same

The 22nd spot on this list is getting awfully familiar with Detroit. The Tigers are not good, make no mistake about it, but thanks to the poor play of Cleveland, this team is only 2.5 games of first place in the AL Central and within striking distance if they can ever go on a run. They’ll need more from their better players if they intend to do that though, as Miguel Cabrera has hit only three homers to date and Jordan Zimmerman currently has a 4.88 ERA.

23) Tampa Bay Rays (15-17) Same

There generally is not much movement when you get to the bottom part of the power rankings, but if there is one team that looks poised to eventually get out of the bottom third it is probably the Rays. Following a disastrous start Tampa Bay has played much better of late, although losing to the Blue Jays on a wild pitch yesterday was awfully disappointing.

24) San Diego Padres (13-22) 1

The Friars have leapfrogged Texas thanks in large part to a nice series win over the Dodgers this past weekend. Carlos Villanueva continues to be one of the better stories in baseball, and encouragingly Eric Hosmer has finally begun to hit. The road ahead will be very difficult for San Diego though, as they will clearly be the inferior team in every game of their upcoming homestand against the Nationals, Cardinals, and Rockies.

25) Texas Rangers (13-23) 1

Really the only reason to watch the Rangers right now is to see how far Joey Gallo will occasionally hit a baseball. The Las Vegas born slugger sure strikes out a lot, (45 times in 130 at-bats) but when he makes contact he sure is capable of some tape measure blasts.

26) Kansas City Royals (11-23)  2

The Royals actually just turned in a reasonably encouraging past seven days, winning one of three from Boston before taking three of four from their division rivals in Detroit. More winnable games are ahead, with their next three contests coming in Baltimore against the struggling Orioles.

27) Miami Marlins (13-20) 3

After finally reaching the bottom of this list last week, give the Marlins a little credit. This young team is clearly playing hard, and they were rewarded with series wins against both Philadelphia and Cincinnati. Heading to Chicago to play the Cubs at Wrigley this week will likely be a challenge, but this club has not shown any quit to date, an encouraging attitude that is clearly coming from manager Don Mattingly.

28) Chicago White Sox (9-23) 2

James Shields actually flirted with a no hitter yesterday, but that was far and above the most exciting development for the White Sox in their previous seven days. Chicago won only once since we last spoke, and might not win much in the week ahead as they play some interleague games with the Pirates and Cubs.

29) Baltimore Orioles (8-26) 2

Baltimore lost all six games they played last week, getting swept by both the Angels and Athletics. Their schedule is not daunting, with the Royals and Rays the next two opponents, but the reality of the situation is the O’s themselves are the team other clubs are looking forward to playing. At this point it is only matter of time before the Manny Machado trade rumors really start swirling.

30) Cincinnati Reds (8-26) 1

The Reds relinquished the cellar dweller role last week, but they sure went out and made sure they got it back. Cincinnati was swept by the Brewers before losing 2/3 to Miami, and with the Mets and Dodgers up next more losing should be on the way.

 

MLB Power Rankings (4/30)

4/16

4/23

1) Boston Red Sox (20-7) Same

The Bo-Sox have come back to earth a little but their unbelievably good first month still assures them the top spot on this list. Last week Boston split six divisional games with the Blue Jays and Rays, and if playing .500 for a week is a disappointment for this team they’ll be just fine.

2) Houston Astros (19-10) Same

How good has Gerrit Cole been since joining the Astros in an off-season trade with Pittsburgh? The long time Pirate has pitched to a minuscule 1.73 ERA in six starts, transforming this pitching staff from good to great. While the Red Sox were the first Major League team to 20 wins, the defending champs are right on their heels, and the two AL powerhouses should stay right with each other all summer. Houston is hitting a tough week on their schedule beginning tonight, as they’ll be tasked with slowing down the blisteringly hot Yankees before visiting NL best Arizona over the weekend.

3) Arizona Diamondbacks (19-8) 1

A cross-country trip to the east coast did little to slow the surging Diamondbacks down as they took 2/3 from both Philly and Washington this past week. A combination of things could make the road ahead a little bumpier, however. Arizona lost lefty Robbie Ray to an oblique injury over the weekend, and the schedule isn’t kind over the next two weeks. The Diamondbacks next 13 games are against the Dodgers, Astros, and Nationals, and it will be interesting to see how well the NL’s best team keeps up this pace against some stiff competition.

4) New York Mets (17-9) 1

In 12 starts Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom have combined to pitch to a 2.43 ERA. In 14 starts the quadruplet of Steven Matz, Zack Wheeler, Matt Harvey, and Jason Vargas have combined to pitch to a 5.93 ERA. It’s hard to believe a team with two of the best starters in baseball could have a rotation problem, but if the Mets don’t find answers in the back of their starting five, they’re at risk of spoiling a phenomenal beginning to 2018.

5) New York Yankees (18-9) 9

The biggest jump of the week comes from the Bronx Bombers, whose all world offense unsurprisingly wasn’t going to stay slumping forever. The Yankees won all seven games they played since we last spoke and have won nine in a row overall, and they’re getting things going at precisely the right time. New York’s next nine contests come against Houston, Cleveland, and Boston, whom along with themselves, are unanimously considered the top 4 clubs in the American League.

6) Chicago Cubs (15-10) 3

It took about a month, but it appears the Cubs have finally gotten on track. Chicago just completed an impressive four game sweep of Milwaukee, in which Cubs pitching limited the Brewers to just two runs, TOTAL. Javy Baez and Kyle Schwarber have paced an offense that hasn’t gotten much from the duo of Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, but we all know that will change sooner rather than later, and when it does, look out.

7) Cleveland Indians (14-12) 4

Similarly to the Cubs, the Indians have spent much of the first month waiting to hit their stride, but unlike their sparring partner from the 2016 World Series, they are still waiting. Cleveland has been stuck in neutral so far in 2018, and just when it looked like they were on the verge of breaking out, they dropped 3 of 4 to the Mariners at home over the weekend. This team has too much talent to be sputtering around .500, but the longer they are, the longer their AL Central rivals will feel like they have a chance to make a run.

8) St. Louis Cardinals (15-12) 2

St. Louis was just swept over the weekend by the Pirates, and had they not stolen a rubber game from the Mets earlier in the week they’d be in much rougher shape. The Cardinals simply need more from their majority of their line-up, as Tommy Pham and Jose Martinez are carrying the entire offense, while veteran bats Matt Carpenter, Kolten Wong, and Dexter Fowler all continue to sputter on the interstate.

9) Toronto Blue Jays (15-12) 1

Toronto has stayed within striking distance of the Red Sox and Yankees in the AL East, but after dropping two one run games to Boston last week they undoubtedly are thinking about what could have been. Beginning tonight the Jays embark on an eight game road trip through Minnesota, Cleveland, and Tampa Bay, and they’ll need to pile some wins together to keep pace in a difficult division.

10) Milwaukee Brewers (16-13)  3

Milwaukee had won eight in a row before losing all four to their arch rivals in Chicago last weekend, a disappointing development for a team with divisional champion aspirations. Milwaukee pitched well against the Cubs, allowing only 9 runs in four games, but their offense was shut-out three times and only scored twice in the other game. This line-up is no doubt missing the injured Eric Thames, but they’ll try to put what happened in Chicago behind them in the week ahead, beginning with two games in Cincinnati starting tomorrow night.

11) Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (16-12) 3

The Angels have dropped significantly two weeks in a row, and while their past week started out brilliantly as they took the first two games with Houston, they dropped the series finale and then were frustratingly swept aside by the red hot Yankees. LA will take today off before welcoming the struggling Orioles tomorrow night, a series this club just has to play well in.

12) Philadelphia Phillies (16-11) Same

Philadelphia lost two of three to both Arizona and Atlanta over the weekend, but this team has definitely stayed in the mix longer than most would have expected. Jake Arrieta and Aaron Nola have been among the best starting pitching duos in the sport, and offensively Rhys Hoskins and Odubel Herrera have both been magnificent. The Phillies visit the woeful Marlins beginning tonight which will give them an excellent chance to rebound following a disappointing home stand.

 

13) Seattle Mariners (16-11) 3

It was nice to see Seattle finally break out this past week, and it will equally interesting to see if it is the sign of things to come. The M’s just completed a difficult 10 game road trip in which they went 7-3, and after taking tonight off they’ll open a six game divisional home stand with Oakland and the Angels beginning tomorrow night.

14) Atlanta Braves (16-11) 3

Similarly to the Phillies, Atlanta will just not go away in the NL East, and there are arguably more reasons to be excited about this team than their rivals in Philadelphia. Superstar prospect Ronald Acuna Jr. finally made his long awaited big league debut this past week, and so far he’s lived up to the hype, hitting .421 with a homer in his first five games. Young second baseman Ozzie Albies is tied for the NL lead with nine home runs, and veteran left handed bats Freddie Freeman and Nick Markakis are both hitting better than .302. After taking two of three in Philly over the weekend the Braves will look to make another division statement in New York beginning tomorrow.

15) Colorado Rockies (15-14) 4

The Rockies are a team that reminds me a lot of the Indians, although this club does not have nearly as much talent as Cleveland. Colorado has had opportunities to really take off but has been stuck around .500 for a month, which may lead you to believe they are just an average baseball team. The Rockies unforgivably just dropped two out of three in Miami, a series in which they scored only twice in three games and were lucky to take the opener 1-0. Beginning a six game road trip with the Cubs and Mets tonight it’s time for Colorado to sink or swim, as things could take a drastic turn for the worse before we speak again.

16) Los Angeles Dodgers (12-15) 1

What happened to LA this past week? After digging themselves out of a terrible early season hole to finally reach .500 last Sunday, the defending NL Champs looked poised to take off as they were set to welcome the Marlins and Giants into Dodger Stadium. Instead, the Dodgers lost 2/3 to Miami and 3/4 to San Francisco, and to make matters worse Cody Bellinger was benched for not hustling yesterday. Los Angeles will have to figure some things out quickly as they visit NL best Arizona beginning tonight, a series they’ll need to play well in as they’re already seven games behind the Diamondbacks.

17) Pittsburgh Pirates (17-11) 2

The 2018 Pirates are a weird team. After trading away their biggest stars this past winter to signify a rebuild, Pittsburgh got off to an unbelievably hot start, one that nobody could have seen coming. They then cooled down quickly, which most looked at as a form of market correction, as very few people outside of Steel City believed Pittsburgh was for real. This past week, however, the Pirates won a series with Detroit before sweeping their division rivals in St. Louis, and as they get set to visit the slumping Nationals tonight, we still have no idea who this club really is.

18) Oakland Athletics (14-14) 2

The A’s have maintained some of the momentum they gained following Sean Manaea’s no-no a little over a week ago, and they’ve played more competitive thus far than a lot of analysts felt they would. Following a series win over the Rangers, Oakland dropped 2/3 to the Astros over the weekend, and they’ll look to finally nose above .500 this week with the Mariners and Orioles on the docket.

19) Washington Nationals (12-16)  1

Don’t look now, but the Washington Nationals have some serious problems. This past week they dropped consecutive series to San Francisco and Arizona, but their issues span more than wins and losses. Daniel Murphy is still out, Anthony Rendon was finally placed on the DL after Washington had played a man short for a week and a half, and Ryan Zimmerman is hitting .191. Clearly trying to do much to help a scuffling line-up, Bryce Harper has seen his average plummet .253, diminishing some of his hot start. With division rivals New York, Atlanta, and Philadelphia all playing well, the Nationals have put themselves in quite a hole after the first month.

20) San Francisco Giants (14-14) 1

San Francisco finally got back to .500 last week, needing a very impressive 5-2 stretch of play against the Nationals and Dodgers to do so. Offensively the Giants have continued to struggle but their pitching is keeping them in games, as their 3.94 staff ERA ranks in the upper half of baseball.

21) Minnesota Twins (9-14) 8

The Twins free-fall continued this past week, and while I was giving them the benefit of the doubt for a while, it’s time to face the reality that maybe they just aren’t that good. Minnesota was demolished by the Yankees during a four game sweep and then lost a weekend series with the lowly Reds last weekend, dropping them to a paltry five games under .500. The only consolation for this playoff team from a year ago is that the Indians haven’t pulled away in the AL Central, and if the Twins can get out of their own way they are still very much in a race.

22) Detroit Tigers (11-15)  Same

Detroit is currently a second place team, but that has more to do with the poor play of most of their divisional rivals than anything else. The Tigers just went 2-4 against the Pirates and Orioles this past week, and to make matters worse both Daniel Norris and Miguel Cabrera had to leave yesterday’s game with injuries.

23) Tampa Bay Rays (12-14) 2

Tampa Bay has continued their climb towards .500 after a dreadful beginning to 2018, and series wins against both Baltimore and Boston certainly helped the cause. Wilson Ramos has spearheaded the clubs turnaround, as after a horrid beginning to his campaign the veteran catcher has gotten his average up to .292.

24) Texas Rangers (11-18) Same

The Rangers just completed a 3-3 week against Oakland and Toronto, significant progress for a team that had been seven games below .500. They figure to have much less success in this stretch of games, however, as Cleveland and Boston present a daunting week ahead.

25) San Diego Padres (10-19) 2

The Padres early season bullpen success has come crashing down to earth, a development that was front and center yesterday afternoon as the Mets completely embarrassed San Diego’s relief corps. Offensively the early season production of rookie third baseman Christian Villanueva has been beyond encouraging, but he’ll need to start getting some help from the Padres big off-season investment; first baseman Eric Hosmer.

26) Chicago White Sox (8-18) Same

The White Sox are not very good, and the most interesting part of their season to date came over the weekend, when young shortstop Tim Anderson got into it with Royals’ catcher Salvador Perez, igniting a benches clearing incident. Perez clearly took exception to Anderson celebrating like he’d just won the World Series after a home run in a lopsided game. But hey, when you’re 8-18 you need something to be excited about, am I right?

27) Baltimore Orioles (8-20) 1

Taking two of three over the weekend from the Tigers was the most positive stretch of play the Orioles have enjoyed in over a month, and perhaps they can continue to play a little better moving forward as Mark Trumbo is set to return from the DL soon.

28) Kansas City Royals (7-20) 1

The Royals continue to be pretty much a one man show, as aside from Mike Moustakas, the whole roster is under-performing. The Royals figure to be a prime seller in July, so they’ll need some veteran players to pick it up to become more attractive trade pieces.

29. Cincinnati Reds (7-21) 1

The Reds had stumbled to a pathetic 3-18 record over the first three weeks, but they actually turned in a winning record in week four. Cincinnati split a four game series with the Braves before actually winning a weekend series with the Twins, getting them out of the last spot on the power rankings.

30. Miami Marlins (9-18) 1

It took a month but the Marlins have finally found their way to the bottom of the list, a place they should stay for a long time.

 

 

MLB Power Rankings (4/23)

1) Boston Red Sox (17-4) Same

Despite being no-hit on Saturday night, the Red Sox completed another successful week since we last spoke, buoyed by a convincing sweep of the Angels in which they outscored the Halos 27-3 in three games. Boston is off today after which they head up to Toronto for a divisional clash with the Blue Jays, but after that they host both Tampa Bay and Kansas City, meaning this hot start is unlikely to end anytime soon.

2) Houston Astros  (16-7) 1

After a sluggish second week the defending champions bounced back in a big way, as after falling to Seattle last Monday they’ve now won five in a row ahead of their division clash with Mike Trout and the Angels.

3) Cleveland Indians (11-8) 2

The Tribe split a bizarre two day affair in Puerto Rico with the Twins, likely their greatest threat in the AL Central, then played well in Baltimore over the weekend, winning twice in three days. Cleveland’s record is not dominant, but this is a team that hasn’t been home in two weeks and has suffered through miserable weather early on. Beginning Tuesday they play 11 straight at Progressive Field, where I believe you’ll begin to see this AL powerhouse take off.

4) Arizona Diamondbacks (15-6) 2

How about the Diamondbacks? Discounted by some during spring training, all the Snakes have done is win, to the tune of the National League’s best record at 15-6. Behind a well rounded offensive attack Arizona just completed a 5-1 week beating up on divisional foes San Francisco and San Diego, and they’re doing it for the most part without slugging third baseman Jake Lamb who has played in only four games thus far. After an off day today the Diamondbacks head east to play Philadelphia and Washington, and we’ll see how well they can maintain this level of play during their first cross country road trip.

5) New York Mets (14-6) 1

The Mets just went 2-4 in their recently completed week, but that record could easily have been the other way around. Ace Jacob deGrom threw 7 1/3 dazzling innings last Monday against Washington, leaving with a 6-1 lead, and Saturday he dominated Atlanta for 7 innings, leaving with a 3-0 advantage. Both times the Mets to this point unflappable bullpen let the games get away, and while that trend will have to cease to continue, this is still clearly a talented team that consistently puts themselves in a position to win.

6) St. Louis Cardinals (13-8) 6

It took over three weeks for a team in the NL Central to make a statement to their rivals, and surprising to some, it was both the Cardinals and Brewers doing it simultaneously, and not the Cubs. St. Louis split a series with the aforementioned Cubs that was seriously disrupted by the conditions in the mid-west, before easily sweeping away the Reds over the weekend. Tomorrow night they open a home series with the Mets with an opportunity to extract a little revenge, as New York beat them up pretty well over opening day weekend.

7) Milwaukee Brewers (14-9) 6

Like I just mentioned a little bit above, the Cardinals began to play better last week but so did the Brewers, a trendy playoff pick in March who has begun to show why. Aided by the return of Christian Yelich from the DL, Milwaukee has won six straight games over bottom feeders Cincinnati and Miami. The schedule is still pretty kind in the days ahead, as after a pair of games in Kansas City the Brewers get a four game weekend series with the Cubs, a golden opportunity to further bury a struggling division foe. And regardless of how they fare in Chicago, playing the Reds again immediately afterwards provides a nice landing spot.

8) Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (14-8) 6

Only the Orioles fell more than the Angels since this time last week, and they’ll have to get their act together immediately to keep the free fall from continuing. Anaheim was embarrassed at home by the Red Sox for three straight days before continuing to struggle against San Francisco, and while Mike Trout leads the Majors with nine homers, he’ll need his teammates to pick it up against Houston and the Yankees in the week ahead.

9) Chicago Cubs (10-9) Same

The Cubs are this potentially dominant team we keep waiting for to take off, but for at least another week, it just never happened. Chicago went just 3-2 last week, playing only five games due to two rain outs with the Cardinals, but the greater concern for this club is the status of star third baseman Kris Bryant, who left the game yesterday after being hit in the head with a pitch. Preliminary tests showed no sings of a concussion but the situation bears watching, especially with the Cubs facing a tough road ahead, playing Cleveland, Milwaukee, and Colorado in their next three series.

10) Toronto Blue Jays (13-8) Same

For months this winter the Blue Jays kept hearing about how good both the Yankees and Red Sox would be, and it had to give them an edge they’ve had on display for the first several weeks. After sweeping the Royals early last week, Toronto completed their second four game split with the Yankees already this season, and while they’ve proven they can compete evenly with their rivals in the Bronx, let’s see what happens in their first face-off with Boston, beginning tomorrow night.

11) Colorado Rockies (12-11) 3

The Rockies have kind of been cruising right around .500 all year, and while good teams find a way to do that when they aren’t playing well, they also eventually break through with a strong winning streak. The Rockies appear to have the talent to go on one of those runs, but it didn’t help when Carlos Gonzalez just landed on the DL yesterday. The schedule may be what gives Colorado the boost they need however, as their next six games are against the Padres and Marlins, a stretch this team just has to dominate if they want to be taken seriously.

12) Philadelphia Phillies (14-7) 6

I guess Phillies’ fans don’t have to put their heads in the oven after all, huh? After rookie manager Gabe Kapler’s tenure got off to about as bad a start as possible, Philadelphia has responded, and they’re arguably the hottest team in the NL right now. Kapler and company just pulled off a four game home sweep off Pittsburgh, completed on an Aaron Altherr walk-off hit in extra innings yesterday, and they’re currently right there in both the NL East division race, and the NL Wild Card chase. It remains to be seen if they can keep this up but it is clear Philly has been a fun team to watch either way, and following the Eagles Super Bowl win last February sports fans in the City of Brotherly love are feeling overly optimistic.

13) Minnesota Twins (8-8) 6

While the Angels struggles over the past week gained more publicity, another AL contender experienced a similar slip; the Twins. Minnesota is coming off an embarrassing three game weekend sweep at the hands of Tampa Bay, and they’ll have to snap out of it and rebound as they begin a four game series in the Bronx tonight.

14) New York Yankees (11-9) 3

Speaking of the team that resides in the Bronx, the Yankees are the other participants in an interesting early week match-up, as both the Twins and Yanks struggled over the past week and both need to turn it on. New York went 3-3 in their most recent six contests, and the most interesting part of their week was the promotion of top prospect Gleyber Torres. They’ll have to hope he can be the jump start they need as the road ahead is not kind, with consecutive series against the Twins, Angels, and Astros.

15) Los Angeles Dodgers (10-10) 2

The defending NL Champs finally began showing some signs of life last week, and you’d have to believe it’s a sign of things to come. LA swept San Diego and then took 2/3 from the Nationals, and their hot streak should continue with their next seven games coming against the Marlins and Giants.

16) Seattle Mariners (11-9) 2

I wrote this last week, but the Mariners really are this team perpetually stuck in no man’s land. They’re undoubtedly talented, but clearly not as good as Houston or the Angels, something that was on display when the lost three out of four to the Astros last week. Until they can prove otherwise, this is a team that will probably continually be right in the middle of the pack in these weekly rankings.

17) Atlanta Braves (12-8) 2

The Braves early season success has been somewhat surprising, but more than anything it’s been how they’re accomplishing it. Atlanta’s offense is currently 4th in the Majors in runs/game with 5.5, a shocking number considering their most potent right handed bat is currently Kurt Suzuki. Undoubtedly that is what led them to sign Jose Bautista and begin trying to turn him into a third baseman in the minor leagues, and who knows, if that works perhaps we have to start taking Atlanta more seriously.

18) Washington Nationals (10-12) 2

Washington survived the past week against two contending teams, going 3-3 against the Mets and Dodgers, but for a team that was a trendy World Series pick, simply surviving is far from the goal. The Nationals still have yet to get Daniel Murphy back from the DL, and they clearly botched Anthony Rendon’s injury situation, as he’s literally missed the past nine games without being placed on the disabled list, causing rookie manager Davey Martinez to play shorthanded.

19) Pittsburgh Pirates (12-10) 4

The Pirates are this high on this list solely out of respect for how they played during the season’s first two weeks, but it’s becoming more and more clear that had to have been a mirage. Fresh off a four game sweep at the hands of the Phillies, Pittsburgh will regroup during the day off today before opening a home stand against the Tigers and Cardinals.

20) Oakland Athletics (11-11) 5

How awesome was that no hitter by Sean Manaea on Saturday night? The A’s southpaw has been arguably the American League’s best pitcher through his first five starts, pitching to a 1.23 ERA with a 0.60 WHIP. Unfortunately his no-no will likely be the high point of Oakland’s season in general as that aren’t expected to be uber competitive, but that’s why baseball is so awesome. Good for him.

21) San Francisco Giants (9-12) 3

The Giants fared okay last week, going 3-3 against Arizona and Anaheim, and while Andrew McCutchen has continued to struggle, Evan Longoria at least picked it up a little bit. If this team is going to have any chance they have to stay around .500 until they can get Madison Bumgarner back from the disabled list, and Johnny Cueto has actually done a nice job leading the rotation in his wake.

22) Detroit Tigers (9-11) 4

The Tigers had probably been the team most affected by April’s unruly weather during the season’s first two weeks, and during their first week uninterrupted by rain and snow, they actually played pretty well. Detroit swept the Orioles before splitting a 4 game set with Kansas City, a series highlighted by JaCoby Jones contributing a walk-off homerun.

23) San Diego Padres (8-15) Same

The Padres are not a good team but they’d been staying competitive do to a pitching staff that was performing towards the top of the league in the first two weeks of 2018. That came to a crashing halt last week, as San Diego gave up 30 runs in 3 games while being swept by the Dodgers, before losing two of three to Arizona over the weekend. The road ahead isn’t any more inviting as they’ll visit the Rockies before coming home to play the Mets.

24) Texas Rangers (8-15) 2

The Rangers early on have looked in large part like a shell of the team we’ve grown accustomed to seeing in Arlington, and when you think about it, they kind of are. They no longer have the benefit of throwing Yu Darvish every 5th day, Elvis Andrus and Rougned Odor are currently injured, and Adrian Beltre has hit only one homerun. On the pitching side Cole Hamels has been getting rocked, which is a problem for Texas, because he may be their most marketable piece come July.

25) Tampa Bay Rays (8-13) 3

After a downright disastrous start to 2018 the Rays have rebounded of late, and actually went 5-1 this past week. Tampa Bay took two out of three from Texas before completely an eye opening sweep against the Twins over the weekend, and they’ll look to continue their winning ways against the free-falling Orioles beginning tomorrow.

26) Chicago White Sox (4-14) 6

The South-siders have not won since we last spoke last week, and the fact that they didn’t fall further on this list says more about the teams around them. The White Sox were swept by both Oakland and Houston, and were outscored by an embarrassing 57-16 margin in those six contests. The road ahead holds games with the Mariners and Royals, and its obvious this team is becoming one opposing squads look forward to playing.

27) Kansas City Royals (5-15) Same

So far Kansas City has been everything they were expected to be. Not very good. As I said last week, the only real bright spot for this team has been the play of third baseman Mike Moustakas. The long-time Royal currently holds a 14 game hitting streak and is batting .318 with six long balls and 17 RBI’s. If he can keep that production up the Royals will be holding a very attractive bat at the trading deadline.

28) Baltimore Orioles (6-16) 7

If you recall last week, I tried to give the Orioles the benefit of the doubt regarding their poor start, as their season opening schedule had been absolutely brutal. After getting swept by the Tigers and drastically outplayed by Cleveland, however, it is becoming obvious this is a bad team, whose biggest story line won’t even play out on the field. Manny Machado hit two homers in the loss yesterday, indicative of the situation I’m about to allude to. Machado is the only draw this team has, a bonafide star on a sinking ship. Due to be a free-agent at season’s end, will Baltimore attempt to get a bidding war for him started in July? Stay tuned.

29) Miami Marlins (5-16) Same

The Marlins are off to a terrible start, but not the historically terrible start many were predicting for them. They did win twice last week, beating both the Yankees and Brewers once, but more losing is likely in store beginning tonight, as Miami opens a three game set in LA against the Dodgers.

30) Cincinnati Reds (3-18) Same

While Miami has managed to avoid it so far, their fellow National League cellar-dwellers in Cincinnati are the ones off to a historically awful beginning. The Reds are currently on pace to go something like 30-132, which would be 10 fewer wins than the lowest total in history. That is obviously a long ways away, but if things don’t start getting at least a little bit better, maybe Cincinnati fans will be able to pay attention to a race after all. Hey, it’s the little things.

 

MLB’s Best Pitchers Face Off: Kershaw vs Scherzer

Up until a few days ago, Friday’s pitching matchup was supposed to be Rich Hill vs Max Scherzer, with Saturday’s being Clayton Kershaw vs Stephen Strasburg. On their own, these were going to be two excellent matchups. Rich Hill is not a star, but he’s one of the game’s better left-handed pitchers, going up against the two-time reigning NL Cy Young award winner in Max Scherzer. That was likely to be a fun game. Then on Saturday, we would have seen the second matchup ever between Clayton Kershaw and Stephen Strasburg.

In the first time this matchup should have happened, Vin Scully was so excited that he had a sore throat but called the game anyway, just to see Strasburg scratched with a sore back of his own. A year later, the matchup went down without a hitch in a wonderful game that saw Kershaw take the win in a 2-1 game over a similarly great game pitched by Strasburg. Getting to see a rematch between the two was a very exciting prospect.

As fun as Friday and Saturday would have been, this all changed when Rich Hill went to the DL with a broken fingernail on his pitching hand. Then thankfully, baseball fans are now getting an early-season treat with a matchup between two three-time Cy Young award winners in Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer.

Kershaw vs Scherzer

In the last two years, one of the most popular questions has been about which of Kershaw or Scherzer is the best pitcher in baseball. I wrote about this a year ago, believing that Kershaw still holds the mantle of baseball’s best pitcher, though the gap is not sizeable like it used to be. Scherzer beating Kershaw for the Cy Young in 2017 only brings the split closer to 50/50.

In the article from last year I showed that overall, Kershaw has been a better pitcher in his career over Scherzer. However, Kershaw broke out in a big way two years sooner than Scherzer did, with both pitchers coming into the league in the same season. If we go by Scherzer’s breakout 2013 AL Cy Young campaign as the starting point, here is how things shake out:

Kershaw W IP K-BB% ERA FIP fWAR Scherzer W IP K-BB% ERA FIP fWAR
2013 16 236 19.8 1.83 2.39 7.1 2013 21 214.1 22 2.9 2.74 6.1
2014 21 198.1 27.8 1.77 1.81 7.6 2014 18 220.1 20.9 3.15 2.85 5.2
2015 16 232.2 29.1 2.13 1.99 8.5 2015 14 228.2 26.9 2.79 2.77 6.4
2016 12 149 29.6 1.69 1.8 6.5 2016 20 228.1 25.3 2.96 3.24 5.6
2017 18 175 25.3 2.31 3.07 4.6 2017 16 200.2 27.3 2.51 2.9 6
2018 1 26 27.7 1.73 3.09 0.6 2018 3 27 34.3 1.33 1.73 1.1
Total 84 1017 26 1.95 2.23 34.9 Total 92 1119.1 24.7 2.83 3.87 30.4
Rank 2013-18 2nd 8th 1st 1st 1st 1st Rank 2013-18 1st 1st 3rd 3rd 7th 2nd

While Chris Sale and Corey Kluber are still looming just behind, it looks pretty clear that the above two guys are the best pitchers we’ve had in the MLB since 2013. Both Sale and Kluber are just 0.5-1.5 fWAR behind, but Scherzer has shown more consistency than the pair, as well as three Cy Young awards in that time to Kluber’s two and Sale’s zero.

Scherzer’s weakness may ‘just’ being 7th in FIP, but the high volume of innings pitched has provided him a lot of value and made up the ground in that area. Then looking at Kershaw, his problem has been staying healthy the last few seasons, missing time in 2016 and 2017 due to back issues. Despite being just 8th in innings pitched, Kershaw’s incredible value when he does pitch is unrivaled on a value per inning basis. When it comes down to one versus the other, there isn’t really a wrong choice between them.

Kershaw and Scherzer’s Head To Head Past

These two pitchers have been very closely linked together for over a decade now. Both were drafted within a few picks of each other in the early part of the first round in the 2006 amateur draft. They both made their debuts in 2008 for NL West teams, Kershaw for the Dodgers, Scherzer for the Dbacks. Their first head to head matchup was as a pair of rookies on September 7th, 2008, a Dodgers win 5-3. Although the Dodgers took the win, Scherzer fared far better than Kershaw pitching 5 innings allowing 3 runs on 5 hits, but striking out 11 with just 1 walk. Meanwhile Kershaw pitched just 4 innings allowing 3 runs on 6 hits, striking out 4 with 1 walk.

Sadly, thanks to a trade to the Detroit Tigers after the following season, Kershaw and Scherzer have never again faced off in the regular season.

2016 NLDS

It is true that Kershaw and Scherzer have not faced off again in the regular season, but in the 2016 NLDS between the Washington Nationals and the Los Angeles Dodgers we got a game 1 matchup between them. In this game, Kershaw picked up the win over Scherzer, but neither pitcher was all that great. Kershaw pitched 5 innings with 3 runs on 8 hits allowed while striking out 7 and walking 1. Scherzer got roughed up by the Dodgers offense, pitching 6 innings, while only giving up 5 hits, but allowing 4 runs with 2 home runs. He did strike out 5 and allow 0 walks, but the damage was done regardless.

Expectations

After eight seasons removed from a disappointing matchup as rookies in 2008, the expectation in 2016 between the two Cy Young winners was sky high. As what usually happens with something like this, neither pitcher threw a good game overall. Expectations for tonight are just as high, even if the stakes are not. Coming into the game neither pitcher has higher than a 1.75 ERA so far in this young season, and with any luck, this could be one of the best pitching duels of the season.

Matchups like this do not come along every day. In fact, this is the first time that two three-time Cy Young winners will face off against each other since 2006 when Roger Clemens and Greg Maddux went head to head. Tonight will be the 13th matchup like this ever occurring, according to Eric Stephen of Truebluela.com per STATS LLC.

We still have a few hours before the game starts, but this should be a game any baseball fan should watch if given the opportunity. If you can’t watch the game on your tv at home, go out to a sports bar and watch. If you are local in Los Angeles and don’t have plans (unlike myself), get a ticket and go watch. This could be a game of the year candidate, fans of baseball in general I hope this matchup finally lives up to the hype.

MLB Power Rankings (4/16)

With baseball season a little more than two weeks old, lets take our first shot at an early season power rankings.

 

1) Boston Red Sox (13-2)

Boston listened all winter to people suggest the Yankees had caught or even passed them in the off-season AL East arms race, but early on all the defending division champs have done is win. It is,  however, important to note that aside from taking 2/3 against the Yankees at Fenway last week, the Red Sox schedule has been light thus far, and it will be interesting to see how they fare on an upcoming nine game road trip that begins in Anaheim tomorrow night.

2) Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (13-3)

There simply is not a more exciting sports story right now than Angels crossover star Shohei Otani. The Japanese star has won both of his starts on the mound with a dazzling 2.08 ERA and an absurd 0.46 WHIP, while offensively he’s hitting .367 with three homeruns. Combined with Mike Trout’s annual excellence, this team may finally be good enough to seriously compete with Houston.

3) Houston Astros  (10-6)

The defending World Series Champions began the new season dominantly, but since this time last week they’ve lost series with both the Twins and Rangers. Last night Houston wasted an incredible start from Justin Verlander, but you’d have to believe this club will find more consistency as the season moves along. Tonight they start a seven game road trip through Seattle and Chicago, before coming back home next Monday for their first big showdown with the Angels.

4) New York Mets (12-2)

When looking at the National League it really is no secret who has played the best thus far. New York has won five straight series to open a season for the first time in their history, and they’re winning with dominant pitching, something this team always envisioned as it’s calling card. The Mets enter play tonight with baseball’s best team ERA at 2.58.

5) Cleveland Indians (8-6)

Despite their relatively average record so far, the Indians are clearly a premier squad in the American League, and after a slow start, they began to take off last week. Cleveland is 6-2 in their last eight contests, and they’ll look to continue that positive trend in a key early season clash with the Twins beginning tomorrow.

6) Arizona Diamondbacks (11-4)

Don’t sleep on the Snakes. Arizona has come out of the gates red hot in what should be a competitive NL West, and despite losing to Clayton Kershaw yesterday, they’ve already taken five of six from the Dodgers and it’s only mid April. That could be important later if the rivals are fighting for a playoff spot where a tiebreaker could become a factor.

7) Minnesota Twins ( 7-4)

The Twins were a surprise playoff team a year ago but they won’t sneak up on anyone this time around. Minnesota has three players with three or more homeruns already in Brian Dozier, Miguel Sano, and Max Kepler, and the additions of Lance Lynn, Jake Odorizzi, and Addison Reed have really made a difference with this pitching staff. Curious to see what happens in their first show down with the Indians this week.

8) Colorado Rockies (9-8)

The Rockies are in a similar boat to that of the Diamondbacks. They’re both extremely talented teams who for the past few years have been stuck looking up at the Dodgers in the NL West. Most predicted that to continue in 2018, but if LA’s horrid beginning to the campaign continues, we could be in for an interesting summer. Colorado has been a little up and down so far but they can certainly mash the baseball, as their 24 team homeruns lead the National League.

9) Chicago Cubs (7-7)

The Cubs are currently in 4th place in their division but they are the first team in the NL Central to make this list, and that should speak volumes about how confident I am that they’ll kick it in gear soon. First baseman Anthony Rizzo is currently on the DL and the Cubs have dealt with some downright miserable weather conditions to date, and while some of their rivals have gotten off to better starts, usually the cream rises to the top if you give it time.

10) Toronto Blue Jays (9-5)

Toronto has been steady so far, chugging along winning most of their series, before the weather caused both of their games with the Indians this weekend to be rescheduled. This week the Blue Jays will look to beat up on Kansas City, before they begin a seven game stretch with the Yankees and Red Sox, a week that should give us a better idea where they stand in the AL East.

11) New York Yankees (7-7)

Speaking of the Yankees, baseball’s biggest winter winner has just not gotten out of their own way to date. Star catcher Gary Sanchez is hitting just .140 while prized off-season addition Giancarlo Stanton is hitting .220 with 25 strikeouts in 59 at-bats. Don’t expect those trends to continue. The Bombers begin a 10 game home stand tonight with two games’s against the woeful Marlins, and it’s important they win them both as they face a difficult road after that, with consecutive series against the Blue Jays, Twins, Angels, and Astros.

12) St. Louis Cardinals (9-7)

The Cardinals have not played all that well so far but they’ve tread water well enough to stay right in the thick of things in their division. Jose Martinez and Tommy Pham have carried an offense that needs more consistency from all of Matt Carpenter, Kolten Wong, and Dexter Fowler. St. Louis renews acquaintances with the Cubs this week, an important April series for both squads.

13) Milwaukee Brewers (8-8)

Milwaukee was a popular preseason playoff pick, and very similarly to their division rivals in St. Louis, the Brewers haven’t been great but have played well enough thus far. Outfielder Christian Yelich and closer Corey Knebel are both currently on the disabled list which has affected this team on both sides of the ball, but beginning tonight Milwaukee has an excellent chance to take off. The Brewers next nine games are against Miami, Cincinnati, and Kansas City, three teams that have combined to go 9-34 so far. They simply have to take advantage of that.

14) Seattle Mariners (8-5)

The Mariners seem to always be the team stuck in the middle, and so far this year that trend has continued. Seattle has had a lot go right for them so far, beginning with the emergence of Mitch Haniger, who is currently tied for the Major League lead with 15 RBI’s. As a team the M’s have played well, but with powerhouses in both Houston and Anaheim they’ll have to step up in the games they go head to head with those teams, beginning tonight in Houston.

15) Pittsburgh Pirates (11-4)

I feel like I’m being a little disrespectful putting a first place this low on the list, but that says everything you need to know about how the Pirates have outplayed preseason predictions. This was a team that traded all-stars Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole last winter to basically signify a rebuild, but don’t tell that to the players on the field. Outfielders Corey Dickerson and Starling Marte have been leading an offense that currently leads the National League with 87 runs, and in three starts James Taillon has emerged as an ace, pitching to a 0.89 ERA in 20.1 innings. It will be fascinating to see if the Bucs can keep this up over the next several weeks.\

16) Washington Nationals (7-9)

Don’t look now but a team many expected to compete for a championship in 2018 has serious problems. Injuries have already crippled a Washington everyday lineup that hasn’t had Daniel Murphy all year, and played this past weekend without both Adam Eaton and Anthony Rendon. Stars Bryce Harper, Max Scherzer, and Stephen Strasburg have all done their part but they’re getting very little help from the rest of the roster, something that will have to change immediately. Tonight the Nationals begin a crucial series with the Mets at Citi Field, and they simply can’t let their arch rivals put more distance between them, as the Mets are already seven up in the loss column.

17) Los Angeles Dodgers (5-9)

Speaking of preseason favorites who haven’t performed up to standard so far, how are the Dodgers struggling so badly? For starters, it’s clear how important Justin Turner is for this offense, and his absence has made it incredibly difficult for this team to score runs. Over time Los Angeles should be fine, but like I just said regarding the Nationals, this is another team that needs to get it going soon before they spot division rivals too big of a lead.

18) Philadelphia Phillies (9-5)

What a difference a week makes. After Philly sports fans were ready to run new manager Gabe Kapler out of town after less than a week, the Phillies have responded, beating up on the woeful Marlins, Reds, and Rays to at least temporarily right the ship. Right now Philadelphia is getting contributions from everyone offensively, most notably Rhys Hoskins and rookie Scott Kingery, but with games coming up against Atlanta, Pittsburgh, and Arizona, lets see where they are in a week and a half.

19) Atlanta Braves (8-6)

Atlanta has played similarly to their rivals in Philadelphia, albeit with a more difficult schedule. The Braves have already gone 3-3 with Washington, won a series against the Rockies, and split two games with the Cubs, and around a difficult four game weekend series with the Mets this weekend, this club plays the Phillies twice and the Reds. It’s time to string some wins together if they want to be taken seriously.

20) Chicago White Sox (4-8)

Weather has wrecked serious havoc on the White Sox schedule so far, as literally their last three games have had to be postponed. When they’ve played Chicago has shown some signs of life, as Matt Davidson’s five homeruns are second to only Mike Trout in the AL, and youngster Reynaldo Lopez has been brilliant in two starts. In a year the Chi-Sox were not expecting to compete young players distinguishing themselves is the most important thing the team wants to see, and so far there’s been reasons to be encouraged.

21) Baltimore Orioles (5-11)

The Orioles have played an incredibly difficult schedule to date, as so far their 2018 opponents in order have been: Twins, Astros, Yankees, Blue Jays, Red Sox. If you want to take the glass half full approach it means lesser opponents are coming, beginning tomorrow night in Detroit. The glass half empty narrative would be if the O’s are going to contend themselves, you’d like them to have gone better than 5-11 against some of the AL’s best competition.

22) Texas Rangers (6-11)

There simply couldn’t have been a single baseball fan not pulling for Bartolo Colon to finish his perfect game attempt last night. The fact that the 44 year old journeyman is even still pitching is incredible in and of itself, but tossing seven perfect innings against the defending champs? Unbelievable. Unfortunately for Texas, aside from Colon last night there has been very little else to be excited about, particularly with shortstop Elvis Andrus now on the DL.

23) San Diego Padres (7-10)

The Padres pitching has been the only real reason they’ve been as competitive as they have been to date, as their 3.08 team ERA is second to only the Mets in the National League. To be more specific, it’s been San Diego’s bullpen leading the charge and keeping this team in games, as in 58 1/3 relief innings the Friars relief corps has surrendered only 14 earned runs. That equates to a 2.16 ERA which will be awfully difficult to sustain. Once the bullpen begins to struggle, so will the Padres.

24) San Francisco Giants (6-9)

The Giants reloaded with veterans this past winter, but basically the whole team has struggled to hit. Their two biggest additions, Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria are hitting .203 and .204 respectively, and that’s the primary reason that only the Reds have scored fewer runs than San Francisco in the NL.

25) Oakland Athletics (6-10)

The A’s have gotten a surprising amount of early season offense from Jed Lowrie and Matt Chapman, who have combined with star power hitter Khris Davis to form a pretty strong three man punch. Oakland’s problem has been on the mound, where outside of lefty Sean Manaea this pitching staff has really struggled to get people out.

26) Detroit Tigers (4-9)

The Tigers are yet another team in a cold weather city that has had their season seriously disrupted by the weather. Detroit has already had five games had to be rescheduled, making it incredibly difficult for the team to find any sort of routine or consistency. When they have played Nick Castellanos has been a bright spot, but we’ll have to give this club a little more time to make a steadfast judgement on them.

27) Kansas City Royals (3-10)

After rejoining the Royals late in spring training, long time third baseman Mike Moustakas hasn’t missed a beat, hitting .327 with three homeruns in the early going. That represents literally the only real positive for a Kansas City team that appears destined for a July fire sale.

28) Tampa Bay Rays (3-12)

The Rays have been an unmitigated disaster to date. They’re currently 13th out of 15th teams in the American League in pitching ERA, and 14th in offensive runs scored, proving they’ve basically done nothing well so far. Perhaps even more disappointing than their 3-12 record is the 10.80 ERA closer Alex Colome currently sports, as he figured to be their best deadline trade commodity.

29) Miami Marlins (4-11)

The Marlins are currently not ranked last on this list, and that represents a win in itself for an organization that is basically sporting a minor league roster. Following an incredible roster tear down this winter that watched four all-stars leave Miami the Marlins have been largely noncompetitive, an unsurprising development. The most interesting thing going forward for this team is the status of Justin Bour, Starlin Castro, and especially J.T. Realmuto, all of whom would be extremely attractive trade commodities, and all three are unlikely to finish 2018 in South Beach.

30) Cincinnati Reds (2-13)

The Reds were not expected to be good but I don’t think anyone expected them to be quite this bad. Joey Votto and company have scored an NL low 44 runs while surrendering an NL high 92. Put that together and 2-13 sounds about right. The most exciting thing Cincinnati fans have to look forward to is the arrival of heralded prospect Nick Senzel who should arrive sooner rather than later.

Matt Kemp defies odds, will start the season with Dodgers

Earlier today, Andrew Toles was optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma City from the Los Angeles Dodgers. Toles showed some very nice power this spring, hitting .283/.286/.566 overall after returning from a torn ACL early in 2017. This is just a day or two after fellow Dodger outfielder Trayce Thompson was designated for assignment due to having no options remaining. Despite the overall impressive spring from Toles, the Dodgers opted to go with four other outfielders. Although this is disappointing for fans of Toles, this will allow him to play every day in the minors and he will be the first one recalled if there are any injuries in Los Angeles.

As far as the four other outfielders that remain in the majors, right field will be manned by Yasiel Puig, center field by Chris Taylor, and then a combination of Joc Pederson and Matt Kemp will take left field.

  • Yasiel Puig has been a mainstay in the Dodgers lineup, save for a short Triple-A stint in late 2016. Puig is coming off of a season hitting .263/.346/.487 and a career-high 28 home runs, securing his spot with ease.
  • Chris Taylor, a breakout star in 2017 hitting .288/.354/.496, took over center field halfway through the season and never gave it up.
  • Joc Pederson, although struggling for much of last season hitting .212/.331/.407 with subpar defense, has a career line of .222/.345/.435 and back to back 3-or-so fWAR seasons before in 2015 and 2016. Not to mention his incredible World Series run smashing 3 home runs while hitting .333/.400/.944.

None of the three above players are at all surprising to see make the opening day roster for the Los Angeles Dodgers. The name that stands out here is the former fan-favorite and MVP-runner up, Matt Kemp.

The Departure and Return of Matt Kemp

Matt Kemp was drafted in the 6th round by the Dodgers all the way back in 2003. Kemp made his MLB debut just three years later in the middle of the 2006 season at just 21 years old. He played nine seasons in Los Angeles, becoming not only an MVP-runner up in his excellent 2011 season, but the best home-grown Dodgers position player since Mike Piazza. In his nine seasons with the Dodgers, Kemp hit .292/.349/.495 with 182 home runs and stole 170 bases in 1116 games.

Injuries and age started to catch up to Kemp, and by the 2014 off-season, rumors were swirling about the Dodgers looking to trade Kemp and his large contract due to declining defensive abilities. During the 2014 season, Kemp sat out a week because then-manager Don Mattingly wanted to move Kemp out of right field into left field. Kemp’s defense was slipping and it was becoming obvious. Finally, by December 12th, Kemp was traded out of Los Angeles sent down the 5 Freeway to San Diego, the bulk of the return being catcher Yasmani Grandal.

San Diego

As a Padre, Kemp showed some flashes of his old self, but was just a bit above average with the bat hitting .264/.301/.462 with 46 home runs and the worst outfield defense in the MLB. After just a season and a half in San Diego, the Braves swapped another former Dodger in Hector Olivera for Kemp in the middle of the 2016 season.

Atlanta the “Baseball Town”

The trade to Atlanta was a welcome one for Kemp, who grew up a Braves fan. His excitement level was so high that he told reporters “I’ve never really played in a baseball town before. So, I am excited about that.” This was something that did not sit well many Dodger fans, after playing nearly a decade in Los Angeles.

Kemp really seemed to take to Atlanta, hitting .301/.349/.536 with 24 home runs and 35 doubles in his first 498 plate appearances from joining the team until mid-June of 2017. After this Kemp fought injuries and put on a lot of weight, floundering the remainder of the season hitting just .223/.263/.355 with 7 home runs and 3 doubles in 210 plate appearances. Overall for the Braves, Kemp hit .278/.324/.482 with 31 home runs and 38 doubles and slightly improved defense from his time with the Padres.

The ‘Charlie Culberson’ Trade

On the morning of December 16th of last year, the baseball world was shocked to hear that the Dodgers were trading Adrian Gonzalez, Scott Kazmir, Brandon McCarthy, and Charlie Culberson to the Braves in exchange for Matt Kemp. For many people, this was a very puzzling move. While the Dodgers were clearly trying to solidify the first base spot for 2017 Rookie of the Year Cody Bellinger, it wasn’t originally clear for some why Kemp was coming back in the deal.

What the deal really was for the Dodgers was a way to lower their payroll this season at the expense of going up for 2019. By shedding Adrian Gonzalez, Scott Kazmir, and Brandon McCarthy’s salaries, this deal put them below the tax salary cap allowing them to save millions in taxes. As well, with an already crowded outfield of Yasiel Puig, Chris Taylor, Joc Pederson, Andrew Toles, Trayce Thompson, and Alex Verdugo, there was no room for Kemp. The plan was to shed all of the other salaries right away and then focus on moving Kemp before the start of Spring training.

Well, that was the plan, anyway.

Matt Kemp’s Return to Los Angeles

It seems as though it was the intention of the Dodgers to trade Kemp to lower their payroll, there never seemed to be any takers. There were stories all winter and early Spring about their efforts, but nothing ever came to be. By the start of March, the Dodgers’ choices were to either release Kemp and pay his entire remaining salary, or give him a look in Arizona and see what he can still do.

Things started off very well with the news that Kemp dropped 40 pounds in the offseason, putting him back at his pre-injury playing weight from 2012 when he was at the top of his game. Perhaps even better, Kemp appears to be getting along in the clubhouse, where that was said to be a bit of a problem his final season in Los Angeles before. Kenley Jansen has called Kemp and Yasiel Puig “brothers for life”, which is a stark contrast from previous seasons.

After getting back into shape and mending fences in the locker room, some of the concerns of the last few seasons surrounding Kemp seemed to be melting away. Kemp had always shown talent, more so with just his bat the last few years, but teams may have been staying away due to these concerns. It looks as though a newly determined Kemp is doing his best to change opinions on that front. The next step would be to prove himself on the field.

Spring Training and a Crowded Left Field

Without finding a trading partner, Kemp stayed on the Dodgers roster. Although he was a former Dodger, and a former MVP candidate, the left field spot was not just going to be given to him. The Dodgers had Joc Pederson with a fairly good track record the last three years, as well as a red-hot World Series showing. They had a returning Andrew Toles who has impressed with his athleticism in small sample sizes in both 2016 and 2017, but is coming back from a torn ACL. They had Trayce Thompson who is out of options and showed a lot of power in 2016. The Dodgers even had a top 50 prospect in Alex Verdugo fighting for left field.

Despite the high level of competition for left field, Kemp’s offense shone through early, hitting .364/.400/.788 with 4 home runs in his first 33 at-bats of the spring. Kemp’s defense was always going to be a problem, as he’s just not the player he was back in 2009 or 2011 when he won a couple of Gold Gloves. However, Kemp shedding 40 pounds will likely help his league-worst defense, and the bat is what is getting him noticed.

By the end of Spring training, Kemp ended up hitting .263/.317/.561 with 5 home runs and securing himself a spot on the opening day roster.

Kemp’s Got Dodger Fans Thinking of 2011

In the final Spring Training game against the Angels last night, Kemp hit a high home run to straightaway centerfield, taking the lead and ending up the game-winning home run.

This home run has Dodger fans thinking of Kemp’s magical 2011 MVP-runner up season, with his ability to hit monster home runs to center field as we had seen so many times that season.

His physique after losing 40 pounds even has him looking like his old self, not the player he’s been with San Diego or Atlanta.

The difference between late 2017 season Matt Kemp and the Kemp of today is night and day, with some people saying the picture on the left is from 2011 and not from 2018.

Matt Kemp is Doing the Improbable

When Matt Kemp was traded away from the Dodgers in December of 2014, no one ever imagined he would ever wear a Dodgers uniform again. Why would they? He was expensive, getting older, and couldn’t field. Yet, three years and four days later when the trade was announced bringing Matt Kemp back to Los Angeles, there was a small glimmer of a hope.

The reports were all that the Dodgers would either trade Kemp or release him, so it seemed for the remaining Kemp fans out there that all hope was lost. Those fans were just waiting for the news that Kemp had been traded for a sack of beans. They were just waiting to hear that Kemp had been released. Even with near 100% certainly of one of these things happening, they never did.

It is said that you can never come home again, but in last night’s game against the Angels, Matt Kemp wore a Los Angeles Dodgers uniform with the number 27 on the back and took Dodger fans back in time. With the news of Toles being optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma City, it was now guaranteed that Matt Kemp will not only be on the Dodgers 25 man roster on opening day, but will likely start in left field.

The Dodgers have seen some stars leave for other teams, such as Mike Piazza or Adrian Beltre, but I cannot recall one ever coming back. For a dedicated group of Dodger fans, this will be a gift that we never imagined would come. It was something we may have dreamed about, but never truly thought would come to pass. In about 21 hours from now, Matt Kemp will be introduced at Dodger Stadium and will shortly take the field just after for the first time as a Dodger in four seasons.

By doing so, he will have defied all of the odds and done so in the face of everyone saying it could never ever happen.

Top Ten Cumulative Pitching Leaders of the 2010s

As we sit here on Valentine’s Day 2018, pitchers and catchers have reported and we are just a month and a half away from the start of the new season. The last time we saw any real MLB action was all the way back on November 1st. On that date, the Houston Astros won their first World Series championship defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 7. This already feels like a lifetime ago, and the slowest off-season in generations has not been helping fans cope.

To get back into the swing of things I decided I wanted to take a look at how this decade of the MLB, starting in 2010, has gone so far. I have no thesis or theory for this series, just pure baseball stats to enjoy. I will be starting off by taking a look at the top ten cumulative leaders from 2010-2017, then take a look the best individual seasons in that time frame.

We are likely to see the names we all know on these lists, players like Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer, Mike Trout, Joey Votto, etc… However, I will be interested to see the surprise names that show up on these lists. I will be curious to see which players I have forgotten or never knew were so good. Ultimately, I am hungry for the MLB season to start and browsing stat pages is how I get through the off-season.

Today we are starting off with starting and relief pitcher top ten leaders, moving on to top ten individual pitching seasons next.

The Pitchers Cumulative 2010-2017 Top Ten Stat Leaders

Starting Pitchers   Relief Pitchers
     
Top Ten Starting Pitcher fWAR Leaders   Top Ten Relief Pitcher fWAR Leaders
     
1. Clayton Kershaw – 52.1   1. Craig Kimbrel – 17.5
2. Max Scherzer – 39.7   2. Kenley Jansen – 17.3
3. Justin Verlander – 39.6   3. Aroldis Chapman – 15.7
4. David Price – 36.0   4. David Robertson – 12.8
5. Zack Greinke – 34.4   5. Greg Holland – 10.9
6. Chris Sale – 33.6   6. Andrew Miller – 10.5
7. Felix Hernandez – 33.0   7. Koji Uehara – 10.2
8. Jon Lester – 31.1   8. Dellin Betances – 9.7
9. Cole Hamels – 30.5   9. Mark Melancon – 9.2
10. Madison Bumgarner – 29.4   10. Jonathan Papelbon – 9.0
     
Top Ten Starting Pitcher FIP Leaders   Top Ten Relief Pitcher FIP Leaders
     
1. Jose Fernandez – 2.44   1. Craig Kimbrel – 1.81
2. Clayton Kershaw – 2.45   2. Kenley Jansen – 1.84
3. Noah Syndergaard – 2.61   3. Aroldis Chapman – 1.96
4. Cliff Lee – 2.80   4. Andrew Miller – 2.19
5. Stephen Strasburg – 2.83   5. Ken Giles – 2.25
6. Corey Kluber – 2.93   6. Dellin Betances – 2.27
7. Chris Sale – 2.96   7. Sean Marshall – 2.29
8. Jacob deGrom – 3.07   8. Wade Davis – 2.37
9. James Paxton – 3.09   9. Greg Holland – 2.45
10. Adam Wainwright/Lance McCullers – 3.14 10. Sean Doolittle – 2.48
     
Top Ten Starting Pitcher ERA Leaders   Top Ten Relief Pitcher ERA Leaders
     
1. Clayton Kershaw – 2.20   1. Zach Britton – 1.58
2. Jose Fernandez – 2.58   2. Wade Davis – 1.65
3. Noah Syndergaard – 2.90   3. Craig Kimbrel – 1.80
4. Cliff Lee – 2.95   4. Mariano Rivera – 1.95
5. Kyle Hendricks – 2.95   5. Kenley Jansen – 2.08
6. Jacob deGrom – 2.98   6. Chris Devenski – 2.14
7. Chris Sale – 3.02   7. Andrew Miller – 2.15
8. Madison Bumgarner – 3.02   8. Aroldis Chapman – 2.21
9. Johnny Cueto – 3.03   9. Jonny Venters – 2.23
10. Felix Hernandez – 3.06   10. Mike Montgomery – 2.29
     
Top Ten Starting Pitcher Innings Pitched Top Ten Relief Pitcher Innings Pitched
     
1. Justin Verlander – 1705.0   1. Tyler Clippard – 587.2
2. Max Scherzer – 1670.2   2. Luke Gregerson – 524.0
3. Clayton Kershaw – 1656.1   3. Matt Belisle – 518.2
4. James Shields – 1636.0   4. David Robertson – 513.1
5. R.A. Dickey – 1627.2   5. Brad Ziegler – 510.2
6. Jon Lester – 1626.1   6. Jim Johnson – 497.2
7. Cole Hamels – 1622.2   7. Fernando Rodney – 491.0
8. Felix Hernandez – 1597.1   8. Joe Smith – 483.0
9. David Price – 1594.1   9. Joaquin Benoit – 477.1
10. Zack Greinke – 1567.2   10. Kenley Jansen – 477.0
     
Top Ten Starting Pitcher K/9   Top Ten Relief Pitcher K/9
     
1. Jose Fernandez – 11.25   1. Aroldis Chapman – 14.85
2. Yu Darvish – 11.04   2. Craig Kimbrel – 14.77
3. Chris Sale – 10.55   3. Dellin Betances – 14.47
4. Stephen Strasburg – 10.54   4. Andrew Miller – 13.98
5. Robbie Ray – 10.51   5. Kenley Jansen – 13.98
6. Danny Salazar – 10.51   6. Edwin Diaz – 13.54
7. Noah Syndergaard – 10.31   7. Michael Feliz – 12.79
8. Max Scherzer – 10.28   8. Carlos Marmol – 12.76
9. Lance McCullers – 10.28   9. Carl Edwards Jr. – 12.62
10. Clayton Kershaw – 9.97   10. Corey Knebel – 12.51
     
Top Ten Starting Pitcher BB/9   Top Ten Relief Pitcher BB/9
     
1. Cliff Lee – 1.24   1. Edward Mujica – 1.34
2. Josh Tomlin – 1.27   2. Dan Otero – 1.37
3. Carl Pavano – 1.51   3. Mariano Rivera – 1.39
4. Bartolo Colon – 1.54   4. Koji Uehara – 1.43
5. Masahiro Tanaka – 1.68   5. Wilton Lopez – 1.54
6. Dan Haren – 1.74   6. Evan Scribner – 1.54
7. Roy Halladay – 1.75   7. Roberto Osuna – 1.69
8. Jeff Karstens – 1.77   8. Seth Maness – 1.71
9. Hisashi Iwakuma – 1.79   9. Sean Doolittle – 1.75
10. Josh Collmenter – 1.80   10. Casey Fien – 1.78
     
Top Ten Starting Pitcher HR/9   Top Ten Relief Pitcher HR/9
     
1. Tyson Ross – 0.59   1. Sean Marshall – 0.31
2. Jose Fernandez – 0.59   2. Javier Lopez – 0.31
3. Clayton Kershaw – 0.60   3. Zach Britton – 0.32
4. Jarred Cosart – 0.61   4. Brad Ziegler – 0.35
5. Chad Billingsley – 0.61   5. Jonny Venters – 0.35
6. Lance McCullers – 0.64   6. Mike Montgomery – 0.36
7. Adam Wainwright – 0.66   7. Kyle Barraclough – 0.39
8. James Paxton – 0.66   8. Wade Davis – 0.39
9. Josh Johnson – 0.66   9. Bobby Parnell – 0.41
10. Garrett Richards – 0.67   10. Luis Avilan/Rafael Perez – 0.41
     
Top Ten Starting Pitcher Wins   Top Ten Relief Pitcher Saves
     
1. Max Scherzer – 132   1. Craig Kimbrel – 291
2. Clayton Kershaw – 131   2. Kenley Jansen – 230
3. Justin Verlander – 123   3. Fernando Rodney – 230
4. Zack Greinke – 122   4. Jonathan Papelbon – 217
5. Jon Lester – 117   5. Aroldis Chapman – 204
6. David Price – 116   6. Huston Street – 195
7. Gio Gonzalez – 110   7. Francisco Rodriguez – 194
8. Madison Bumgarner – 104   8. Greg Holland – 186
9. Rick Porcello – 104   9. Mark Melancon – 179
10. Felix Hernandez/Johnny Cueto – 102 10. Jim Johnson – 165

Thoughts On These Leaders

  • fWAR Top Ten Leaders

    • On the starting pitcher side, everyone makes sense to be there, but it’s interesting to see Cole Hamels there as someone who was never really a top guy, but has been consistently good for a long time.
    • For the relievers, starting with Kimbrel, Jansen, and Chapman, anyone else being up there would be a shock. These three pitchers are the pinnacle of relievers post-Mariano Rivera. What is surprising, however, is seeing David Robertson fourth on the list, and by a good amount. Another surprise is seeing Koji Uehara 7th on the list. Uehara was a very underrated reliever during this decade, and this could be because he never had more than 26 saves in a season.
  • FIP Top Ten Leaders

    • It is interesting to see younger, less heralded pitchers such as James Paxton and Lance McCullers on this list ahead of guys like Roy Halladay (3.17), David Price (3.17), Max Scherzer (3.18), Zack Greinke (3.20), Felix Hernandez (3.24), Justin Verlander (3.32), and some other top pitchers in that time frame.
    • Cliff Lee may not have a HOF resume, but has one of the best peaks of this generation. Lee comes in at fourth on the FIP list with a stellar 2.80 FIP despite never quite having the same ace reputation as guys like Verlander, Scherzer, Kershaw, or Halladay.
    • Seeing Sean Marshall on this list reminds me of just how great he was for a four-year stretch after becoming a reliever for the Cubs and one year on the Reds, and it’s a shame he pitched just 24.1 innings pitched after his age 30 season.
    • Sean Doolittle has been one of the more under-the-radar reliever pitchers of the decade, putting up several valuable seasons (four at 1.6 fWAR or higher since 2012). There are several other relievers I would have believed to have a better FIP in that time, but Doolittle keeps proving how good he actually is each season.
  • ERA Top Ten Leaders

    • Once again we have pretty much all of the usual suspects on the starting pitchers list, being lead by a country mile with Clayton Kershaw and his insane 2.20 ERA. Next up is Jose Fernandez at 2.58, and no one else until Noah Syndergaard all the way up to 2.90. It’s always sad to see Fernandez on these lists for what could have been and what ended up happening.
    • Kyle Hendricks is really the only lone surprise on the starting pitchers list, appearing tied for fourth with Cliff Lee with a 2.95 ERA, beating out many excellent pitchers.
    • Looking at the relief pitchers, it is a bit of a shock to me to see Zach Britton leading the pack with a minuscule 1.58 ERA. If I had to bet money, I would have gone with Wade Davis or Craig Kimbrel.
    • In the “what could have been” category, Jonny Venters is ninth on the list with a 2.23 ERA. In the early 2010s, no bullpen scared me more than the Braves. They had Eric O’Flaherty, Jonny Venters, and Craig Kimbrel closing out games. These guys were the real deal and any lead for the Braves seven innings in looked locked down. Sadly for Venters, injuries kept him out of the league from 2013-2015, and he has pitched just 27.2 innings in the Rays farm system with no MLB appearances over the last two seasons.
  • Innings Pitched Top Ten Leaders

    • Would you have believed that James Shields and R.A. Dickey are fourth and fifth in innings pitched the last eight seasons? I knew both were known for their durability, but it’s still a little odd to see them with so many innings in that time.
    • On the relief pitcher list, there are a couple of great pitchers, but when looking at the names you see more reliability than greatness.
  • K/9 Top Ten Leaders

    • Jose Fernandez leads the starting pitchers with a ridiculous 11.25 K/9, with newly signed Yu Darvish just behind at 11.04. Nothing surprising on this list, seeing all guys who throw heat and have awesome stuff. I understand why Robbie Ray is there after watching him strike out approximately 47 Dodgers in one game during last season.
    • K/9 is where Aroldis Chapman earns his money, striking out nearly 15 per 9 innings at 14.85. Craig Kimbrel and Chapman’s teammate Dellin Betances are just behind him thought at 14.77 and 14.47 K/9, with star relievers Andrew Miller and Kenley Jansen just a bit behind them at 13.98 K/9. You look at the top five here and just nod your head just thinking about their sheer dominance the last eight or so seasons.
  • BB/9 Top Ten Leaders

    • BB/9 is where you start to see less great pitchers, and a lot more control artists. Guys like Josh Tomlin, Carl Pavano, Bartolo Colon, Jeff Karstens, and Josh Collmenter are not bad pitchers but don’t do a lot of other things all that well in comparison to not allowing walks.
    • There are definitely some great pitchers on this list, leading off with Cliff Lee’s incredibly low 1.24 BB/9, as well as Masahiro Tanaka at 1.68 BB/9, Dan Haren at 1.74 BB/9, and Roy Halladay at 1.75 BB/9.
    • Much like the starting pitcher’s list, the relief pitcher list is a mixed bag with Edward Mujica, Evan Scribner, Seth Maness, and Casey Fien appearing on it, while seeing great relievers in Uehara, Mariano Rivera, Roberto Osuna, and Sean Doolittle.
  • HR/9 Top Ten Leaders

    • This list has some very interesting names on it as far as the starting pitchers. Tyson Ross leads it off tied with Jose Fernandez at 0.59 HR/9, followed closely by Clayton Kershaw at 0.60 HR/9. Anyone who watched Fernandez and Kershaw knows that one of the things they do best is not allowing home runs, but seeing Ross lead the list is pretty cool. I’m sure Petco helped, though.
    • After those three, seeing Jarred Cosart, Chad Billingsley, Josh Johnson and Garrett Richards is something. Outside of Cosart, the other three were All-Star levels pitchers but faced either inconsistency year-to-year or injuries keeping them off the field. While Billingsley and Johnson’s careers are over, and sadly they did not get to have the great careers everyone envisioned, Richards is still young enough to attempt it if he can stay on the field.
  • Wins and Saves Top Ten Leaders

    • If there was a re-draft of the 2006 MLB draft, it is very likely the top two wins leaders, Max Scherzer and Clayton Kershaw, would absolutely be the consensus one and two selections. That is really saying something when you also have another two-time Cy Young winner in Tim Lincecum, a star 3B in Evan Longoria, and an elite shutdown reliever in Andrew Miller.
    • The wins list is filled with almost everyone you would expect, all perennial All-Star and Cy Young contenders. The most puzzling name on the list to me is Rick Porcello, and perhaps oddly so. While Porcello does have a Cy Young award to his name, no one expected it nor expects him to get back to that point again. Then again, wins as a stat don’t properly show how good or bad a pitcher is, so it doesn’t really matter too much.
    • On the saves side, a stat just as important (or not) as wins, Kimbrel leads the pack by an insane 61 save margin over Kenley Jansen and Fernando Rodney. The list has pretty much everyone you would expect, though I must say it’s a bit surprising to see Francisco Rodriguez still chugging along after so long and at his age.

When it comes down to it, this decade of pitching has been dominated by Clayton Kershaw, Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Cliff Lee, Craig Kimbrel, Kenley Janson, Aroldis Chapman, and a few others. We see these names littered on these top tens in just about every category. What this is more about is seeing the other names surrounding them, and who managed to be a leader while not getting nearly the attention the names listed previously get.

As I said before, there isn’t much of a purpose to this series outside of getting back into baseball mode and seeing if we can learn anything new. If anything, it has just made me remember some pitchers who had some great potential but never fully met it, and pitchers who were taken down by injuries and never got to become the star they could have been. Lastly, while writing this, it has gotten me just that much closer to opening day. March 29th cannot get here fast enough.